I have the flat to myself tonight as Bethan is at a friend's house, so I'm listening to the new Bloc Party album loudly, although not loudly enough to upset my downstairs neighbour Chanel (I hope) who hates her kids getting woken up (she liked them to be well rested for a day of being screamed at).
Anyway, the Bloc Party album, Intimacy is pretty good. Bloc Party are an odd one. Their first album, Silent Alarm made them an integral part of the indie scene, and yet they never really fitted in with the likes of Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs with whom they shared the covers of the NME. Which is probably a good thing, since the last offerings from those two were boring, lager-lout friendly, shouty anthems that sounded like rehashes of Oasis songs, which in turn are just rehashes of Beatles songs.
One thing Bloc Party does not have is chanty lyrics that can be yelled at the top of ones lungs in a Yates bar. "Mercury's in retrograde!" does not have the same instant appeal to the drunken masses as "RubyrubyrubyRUBAAAAAY!". In fact, Bloc Party's penchant for difficult lyrics is both a blessing and a curse. Their songs, often dark in tone, are filled with evocative imagery; Intimacy's "Talon" is a fantastic example of this: I try to stand still so it will not see me/Its talons rake the side of my face ... And when it comes it will feel like a kiss/silent and velvet. Then there are the other Bloc Party lyrics. The ones where some clumsy turn of phrase stops a song dead in its tracks. The worst example on this latest album is the name check of East London on "One Month Off"; When we started this it was paradise, not just Bethnal Green. Maybe it's just because I actually do live in Betty Green, but this line makes me cringe.
That said, Intimacy is by far an improvement, lyrically, on the last album A Weekend in the City, which has some songs that I just can't listen to without wincing. That album introduced a much larger "stadium rock" sound, as the Vice review at the time put it, that I felt cancelled out a lot of what had made the band special. Good news is the enigmatic lyrics and the driving drum beats are back in force on this latest venture. Bloc Party have instead turned to electro dance influences; you may have already heard the single "Flux" (a track that is on the American release of Intimacy but the UK re-release of A Weekend in the City and thus sits sort of between the two albums) which sounds like a dance remix of a Bloc Party track. It seems to me a logical progression, and whilst the raw element that made Silent Alarm an instant, punchy favourite is missing on the more evolved Intimacy, the album is still far more exciting than anything else in the charts at the moment.