Bloc Party

Bloc Party EP

(Dimmak; 2004)

By Sean Ford | 14 November 2007

2004 will probably be remembered by the hipster yearbook committee as the year you chose to either side with the retro rocking post-punks or the free folk hippies. Sure, people will fondly recall their inner soul searches about whether to tighten those jeans, wear the frayed Joy Division t-shirt and go after the cute little hipster, or sport the Birkenstocks, stop showering and go after the cute little hippie. We’ll all smile as we remember the decision to slather the new hair style with slick pomade product or douse the doo with fragrantly freeing patchouli or. . . well, you get the idea. It’s the indie music world’s version of a culture war, our very own Mods vs. Rockers battle royale.

Perhaps that’s an overly sarcastic way of overstating matters; because, of course, there are bands that thankfully operate outside of either mode. But going to a slew of concerts in my ‘burg (Manhattan) these days, you can’t help but notice a rift in terms of fan-base that only the Arcade Fire have been able to bridge. Now, throughout the history of pop music there’ve been genre wars a plenty, but today you can’t help sensing that rather than life-long folk fans being attracted to Devendra Banhart, or life-long Wire fans attracted to a Futureheads show; it’s more about people choosing this year’s fall fashion line of what style defines their au courant sensibilities. Maybe it’s just the same hipsters at both sets of shows, wearing different outfits. Perhaps that’s the way it’s always been, though the postured sound as fashion just seems a little more blatant these days.

Anyway, we might as well touch on the latest runway model to stroll down the retro rocking post-punks Fall Fashion Show: Bloc Party! It’s probably unfair to lump Bloc Party into this discussion so early on in their path to fame, fortune and immortality, but it’s also too late to stop. Bloc Party have a good deal of fun sounding like their well decorated predecessors, in this case: Gang of Four, Wire, the Fall, the Cure, and uh…the Strokes, Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. Hailing from Jolly old England, the Bloc have ridden the wave of adulation that Franz were able to create by following the in the footsteps of the Strokes and Interpol, only in a different country (clever, eh?). Anyway, it seems the Brits like this stuff as much as we do, because in addition to the success of the aforementioned Franz and the surging Futureheads, nascent acts Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Art Brut and Yourcodenameis:Milo are finding an audience, as well as a record deal or two.

Let me be clear: the Bloc Party aren’t exactly making me nauseous or anything with their sounds of future past; they’re actually probably just as good as Franz, and only a step behind the Futureheads. More like I’m bemused that yet another band is getting away with this and managing to sound at all fresh and interesting. Opener, and fantastic ass-shaker, “Banquet” features a piercing guitar line, rapid-fire drums and a driving, propellent bass. Lead singer Kele Okereke yelps, “so overrated!” --- sounding like a cross between Damon Albarn and Mark E. Smith. Something this over-done shouldn’t be this fun, but it is. Bloc Party do a pretty darnn good job of selling a used car.

Elsewhere on the brief EP, “Staying Fat” is a call and response anthem featuring that same angular guitar making spastic stabs, then an explosion for a driving chorus, sounding a bit like early Interpol’s less atmospheric rides. The lyrics hint at a bit of interesting culture critique, while maintaining the youthful energy of “Banquet.” Unfortunately, the EP falls off a little after the sterling first two songs, traversing to the slower, muddier, dance punk sounding “She’s Hearing Voices.” Repetitive scorcher “The Marshals Are Dead” reveals the band’s fascination with the Fall once more, especially in Okereke’s vocals.

As is the case with all these bands who look to the fruitful early '80s for their rocking cues, it’s hard to say whether Bloc Party has anything to say quite yet. This EP shows promise in a solid understanding of dynamics that should otherwise sound tired and an ability to concentrate their brash energy to rocking ends. Whether that’s enough to fuel next year’s full length is still up in the air, but for now they’ve earned the right to walk down the same runway as fellow Brits Franz Ferdinand. Score one for the rockers.