I'm generally only moved to commit to a review on the basis of being moved or repelled, and this album has done the former to such an extent that it has completely redefined my opinion of Bloc Party in much the same way as it seems to have disappointed ardent fans of Silent Alarm.
When an album comes along that divides opinion so profoundly the one thing you can't accuse it's creators of is resting on their laurels and playing it safe, and obviously the comparisons with Radiohead aren't far behind for any band daring to experiment or change direction, being as they are, arguably, the benchmark by which musical innovation often seems to be judged. From the moment Ares kicks things off to the closing Ulrich Schnauss inspired strains of Ion Sqaure bleeding out of the speakers this album grips without letting go. Tracks like Halo, Trojan Horse, One Month Off & Talons are like a jackhammer to the solar plexis, punchy, tightly executed guitar driven slabs of utter adrenalyn fueled power. Scattered among the high octane riffing of the former are beautifully conceived moments of melancholy such as Biko and Signs, a brace of songs which give this album an extra dimension, the dreamlike glockenspiel and plantive electronic bassline of the latter providing an anchor to Okereke's mournful falsetto vocals.
The deliciously compressed, skittering drum tracks which have found their way onto tracks like Biko & Zephyrus are probably the flashpoints which polarise opinion as they exhibit an overt inclination towards electronic production, but personally speaking it is that fusion on this album which makes it such an exciting experience, being a longstanding fan of IDM, when I hear production elements that wouldn't sound out of place on a boards of Canada, Telefon Tel Aviv or Boats record in a place I'd never expect to hear them it's a thing to savour as it outlines that the most disparate musical genres can work harmoniously together given the right vision, and fear or snobbery toward one or the other limits the musician as much as it does the listener.
What this album does is quite simply entertain which is after all why we listen to music, is it Bloc Party's kid A moment? No I wouldn't say it is because while it's a change of direction it's not particularly innovative but consequently it's hugely accessible whilst by no means being dull or derivative. It seems to me that what Bloc Party have done is make exactly the music they wanted to make, setting aside all other considerations and the result is thrilling, packed with integrity, and destined, I feel, to go down as their finest moment.
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