Bloc Party

Silent Alarm Remixed

(Vice; 2005)

By Peter Hepburn | 6 October 2005

Good lord is this record bad. Not just a little bad, but really, significantly bad. Much as this must have seemed like a good idea after one too many times rocking out to that Phones Disco edit of “Banquet” (originally from the Bloc Party EP and featured again here), the fact that only three tracks on this entire miserable disc even manage to match that track is a testament to the futility of entrusting the remixing of a rock band to a bunch of indie rockers who don’t know what they’re doing. And Four Tet. Jesus, haven’t we all learned our lesson on Four Tet remixes by now? Just don’t let Kieran Hebden near your master tapes.

Right from the start it’s clear that something is deeply wrong when Ladytron misinterpret the order to remix “Like Eating Glass” and instead just castrate it. It’s a song totally built on that frenetic guitar line and Matt Tong’s evil drums; Ladytron pull the rug out from under Tong, mute Kele Okereke’s lead vocals, and then the only trick they try to pull is floating a second lead over the chorus. Piss poor, lads. Still, the Blackbox remix of “Positive Tension,” whose main contributions seems to be the addition of a shitty synth line and some sound effects, manages to actually be worse.

After the aforementioned, deeply refreshing Phones Disco edit of “Banquet” (always makes me think of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for some reason), it sort of just goes downhill. As if “Blue Light” wasn’t so terribly overwrought and dull the first time around, Engineers manage to make it even slower, distraught, and worse. Still, in comparison with Erol Alkan’s eight-minute cut-and-paste deconstruction of “She’s Hearing Voices,” the prior track seems downright enjoyable. It’s as though a brain-damaged child became so entranced with individual five second clips of the song that they played them over and over and over until everyone just skipped to the next song.

Only to find that the next track, Silent Alarm's second miserable slow jam, “This Modern Love,” had been subjected to the wrath of the same brain damaged child, making it 38 seconds longer and substantially worse. That’s not entirely fair, of course, since the middle portion of the song is left almost entirely untouched, with just some ugly trappings on the edges. M83 manage the remarkable feat of actually completely reimagining “The Pioneers”; which isn't to say that it's good, it really isn’t, but at least they tried. Le kudos, guys. Both Automato and Four Tet follow this up by showing that the ingenuity wasn’t at all necessary to turn out equally dismal results. I think I get what Four Tet was going for, but it’s like he lost interest half way through and forgot to do anything really interesting with the second half of the song. The less said about Nick Zinner’s take on “Compliments,” the better.

However, if you’ve already downloaded or, god forbid, bought this record, there are a few tracks worth checking out. The Whitey remix of “Helicopter” does basically everything right, namely playing to the band’s clear strengths: Tong and bassist Gordon Moakes. The drums are cleared up and end up sounding like they were recorded in your garage (a good thing), while the bass is just a thick wall of noise that plays perfectly off the spare, hollow guitar line. Whitey manages to up the ante on both the bass and guitar with alternating solos; Okereke does his thing and everybody goes home happy. Likewise, the stripped down and vicious take on “Luno” courtesy of Death From Above 1979 seriously ups the rock factor and adds a layer of filth to the whole thing.

Still, the only truly great remix here comes from none other than Mogwai. The only reinterpretation to end up shorter than the original, their take on “Plans” manages to take one of the best songs from Silent Alarm and make it markedly better. Again, they manage to do it by reducing the song to its essence, downplaying Russell Lissack’s lackluster attempt at guitar heroics that closed the original version and instead focusing on the pulsating bass line, flourishes of Tong’s tribal drums, and Okereke’s beautifully gloomy lyrics. They wisely do away with the under-formed second verse in favor of some creepily reversed lines, which really adds to the apocalyptic feel of the track.

Bloc Party has, arguably, the best rhythm section in modern indie rock. I’m not wild about Okereke and Lissack, but the combined force of Tong and Moakes is not to be taken lightly. It’s a shame more of the artists brought in for the project didn’t take advantage of that strength of the band. As is, Silent Alarm Remixed is another one to be quietly filed away next to The People’s History of the Dismemberment Plan and Electrostripesin the category of “poor ideas pulled off poorly.”