Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bloc Party - Weekend in the City

Hey, it’s about time I started reviewing albums from this century, right? And this one is even from 2007. Who knew?

I loved the Bloc Party’s debut album, Silent Alarm, and was pretty psyched to hear the follow-up. So when I heard that the new album was not only a concept album, but also “a more mature effort,” I began to grow concerned. These are the equivalent of your team’s head coach getting the dreaded “vote of confidence” or finding out that while you were in Haiti you picked up “a little gonorrhea.” In music-speak, this means “you liked the first album, this next album will suck; prepare for a kidney punch.”

Weekend in the City… well, it doesn’t exactly suck, but it isn’t exactly great either. The lyrics are much more plain-spoken than on Silent Alarm, which could be a good thing. It’s not. Instead of being a real-life snapshot of life in the city (which, duh, is the concept), the lyrics come off as cliché and trite. At least to my ear. I mean, c’mon – the first track (“Song for Clay (Disappear Here)”) compares London to a vampire, and the second track (“Hunting for Witches”) is about, well, witches. Essentially, this is “Buffy the Bloc Party Slayer.” (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

And those two tracks are the only ones I’m keeping.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The songs I'm keeping are at least very good and pehaps even great. And I cannot fault the band for effort on the album as a whole – every song shows it. The instrumentation is excellent and the playing is more than solid; the bass, drums, guitar are all very good (on all the songs) and compliment the simplistic lyrics. I don’t know how else to say it: they somehow don’t all work together. There's something missing here.

In the end, the songs are simply not cohesively executed. The band wrote lyrics they thought would be smart and edgy, but they instead come off as what someone thought would be smart and edgy. The music progresses in terms of overall instrumentation, but lacks the punch, balance, and melody (read: guitar riffs) of Silent Alarm. In this case, more mature = less interesting.

Despite all that, it is a decent album, and not a terrible listen. I might even call this "good." For me, it’s just not worth keeping, but I could see how people might get into this album.

Merch Rating: I bought this album without reading reviews. I won’t do that again – I’ll wait until I hear they’ve created the “Album of the Year” before I buy another. I would not go to see them play – I saw them at Austin City Limits two years ago and my friend Scott and I walked out on them. (To be fair, we then headed over to see the Drive-by Truckers and walked out on them as well; we ended up seeing Roky Erickson, who was spectacular.) So a 0 on the Merch Rating.

CD Placement Rating: This goes into Sell-Back Pile 1, as I’ll keep a couple of tracks.