Thursday, January 05, 2006


Bloc Party
Silent Alarm

A few months ago, Rolling Stone Magazine interviewed Dave Allen, the bassist for the aging, revered Gang of Four about the bands they've allegedly influenced:

What do you think of new bands, like the Futureheads and Bloc Party, and their connection to your sound?

I think "respect." If writers want to say these bands are good -- and they're great -- but they're borrowing from Gang of Four, I mean, that's cool. I suppose I'm a little pissed that some of these bands are just borrowing freely from us.

Bloc Party, a South London foursome that successfully straddled the tightwire-thin line of hype and cred, has more often than not been associated as protégés of Gang of Four. This frustrating comparison has perplexed me ever since their debut Silent Alarm was released because unlike that self-important, post-punk Foursome, Bloc Party frankly sounds like a pop band.

Well, not a pop band in the classic bubblegum sense but rather, Silent Alarm proves that Bloc Party is primarily concerned with tunes (again, unlike Gang of Four). Their winning debut is rife with unpretentious hooks ("Little Thoughts"), euphoric dance sing-alongs ("Banquet") and sweet, sappy romantic sentiment ("This Modern Love"). Those are three descriptors you would never associate with typical protest-y, post-punk. And who cares as to whether the lyrics are political or not? Kele Okereke's winningly crude and distinctly English vocals remind me of Damon Albarn's charming yelp heard on early Blur records. They're aching and earnest, almost emo in their overwrought delivery (imagine My Chemical Romance singing “Like Eating Glass”). [And even more interesting: when was the last time the British press celebrated a black lead singer of a rock band? In the sixties? With Kele and TV on the Radio's Tundae Adibempe, we no longer have the image of Living Color's Corey Glover etched permanently in our heads.]

Perhaps I'm wrongfully using this entry as an opportunity to also express my dislike for the Gang of Four catalogue (their records have inspired for me nothing but migraines) especially when the merit of Silent Alarm warrants our sole attention to Bloc Party for developing a sound all their own. Moreover, it wouldn't be very controversial to say that Gang of Four are past their peak of relevance, attempting to recapture an idea nearly thirty years after top potency. Sadly, I saw GoF on their reunion tour and walked out in the middle. The reinterpretations of their "angular" songs further reinforced my disinterest in the records.

Ironically, a few months back, Okereke was interviewed by The Guardian, a United Kingdon newspaper and when asked about the Gang of Four comparison, he said, "We're forever compared to Gang of Four. We'd never heard them until people started mentioning it." Perhaps then, this isn't another case of student becoming the teacher, as Allen presumes it to be. It would seem that rather it's the student that never even showed up to class.


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