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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Welcome to the Bloc Party

Published: October 19, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

While procrastinating over a midterm paper, my suite-mate and good friend Gustavo was listening towell I wasnt sure what it was at first. What had begun as a myriad of different radio station sound clips soon transformed into the backdrop for a song full of meaningful insight, unusual delivery, and definitely a rock but not really rock feel.

It wasnt soft enough to be Maroon 5 and it was too melody-dependent in its sound to be the newest effort from Travis and his heroic Gym Class friends. No, this was a totally new, and totally fresh sound and perspective. Gustavo had just invited me to the Bloc Party.

Bloc Party is an indie English rock band with most of its members stemming from the East London/Essex area. The diverse musical background of its members, lead singer Kele Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matt Tong have all taken their toll on the bands flair and therein its appeal Okerekes vocal styling is reminiscent of and inspired by bands like The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins. Tong has conceded that his style is adapted from that of the London dance and R&B scene (hence the not-really-rock feel of the songs).

The result is Bloc Party with a collective talent that has garnered success with several chart topping songs including the single off of its first album entitled Banquet. In the bands sophomore effort, an album entitled A Weekend in the City, there are plenty of traces of familiarity in its music.

The song I Still Remember for example, is quite reminiscent of Vegas rock band The Killers in the overall cathartic, peaceful energy of the instruments. Okereke's delivery holds the drawl-laden, sleepy yet remarkably astute lyrics we see in artists like Damon Albarn of the band Blur (who is also the vocalist posing as 2-D in the Gorillaz) and Chris Martin of Coldplay. The particular intonations of Okerekes voice, however, and the significantly more direct approach that Bloc Party takes to its lyrics are enough to draw a discernible divide between this fledgling band, which was just formed in 2003, from vets like Blur and Coldplay.

The music of Bloc Party is pure allegory. Even the name of the band, which can be mistaken as a purposeful misspelling of the term block party, actually has a message behind it. According to Moakes, [the name Bloc Party represented unity between] eastern “Blocs” and the western “parties. This allusion to the state of being during the Cold War is indicative of Bloc Party's habit of using riddles and allegories as well as the bands apparent sentiment that things are not much better now then they were then.

For example, the song simply titled On, which is beautifully and simplistically written, is an allegory about love. As in all allegories we see a narrator disguising a truth within a cloak. This truth is hidden for the very contradictory purpose of helping us to see it better. It takes the guise of the everyday we heard it a million times love story about wild nights of passion and of dancing and of chasing the unattainable. However, this time around we see a very different cast of characters in this story than what we are used to. The “lover boy” is not the bungling young sprite of teen romances, he is a junky/ alcoholic. His lover is not the girl of his dreams- it is his next fix whether it one of alcohol or of drugs.

It may seem easy, as a reader of the songs lyrics, to pick up the underneath theme. The fact of the matter is however, as a listener one does not realize the demented nature of the songs narrator so easily. We are so convinced by Okereke in the guise of the junkie that he is really in love with someone or something that is so wonderful, that we do not (and perhaps do not want to) admit that the true subject of the song is not love but addiction. This is exemplary of the power of allegory in the music of Bloc Party. An obvious truth being that addiction is bad, is hidden within the guise of a love story. We believe the love story but once we recognize the disguise, we see the truth ever more clearly. This is allegory. This is music. This is Bloc Party.

Sometimes, for the sake of being direct, Bloc Party will also skip the subtleties of allegory and will hit us with some outright and outspoken satire. In the pretty scary and very intense song Hunting for Witches we see a satirical yet resoundingly true account of the medias effect upon peoples disposition in light of the terror attacks and political climate of the decade. The song begins with an artistically crafted display of the bombardment one receives from radio and TV influences (this was the song Gustavo was listening to with the myriad of radio signals as the backdrop).

Already a UK sensation and soon to be one in the US, I look forward to Bloc Partys future work. This new band is definitely showing lots of promise and I for one feel like we should all feel welcome and inclined to participate in the Bloc Party.