[sic] Magazine

Bloc Party: Intimacy

Oct 27th 2008 Wichita/Vice
Review by: Jamie Milton

We’ve all been made aware of this; when ‘Silent Alarm’ was released and adored in 2005, Bloc Party had no intentions of getting cosy. Since it became something of a favourite amongst most of the music world’s lovers, Kele Okereke and, well, maybe just Kele Okereke, has decided to (attempt to, at least) break new ground, impress those who weren’t impressed the first time round. I doubt he’s the Ryan Adams type who browses the Internet “criticism” as a keyword, but Kele obviously believes that change will avoid snide comments from some corners. That’s in some cases true and even though ‘A Weekend In The City’ was indeed, sneered upon from those aforementioned corners because of its content, lyrically and even in some cases musically, the same won’t be thrown towards ‘Intimacy’, because it’s certainly trying a lot harder than its predecessor.

‘Mercury’ wasn’t just sneered upon, it was frowned upon, even by some of the most brick-like, loyal fans of the four-piece because it dabbled into a TV On The Radio, Radiohead-esque horn section, without any “proper” melody and the lyrics were instantly knocked by the nitpickers who didn’t take well to the “I am trying, to be heroic, in an age of, modernity” lyric that opened ‘AWITC’. But on ‘Intimacy’ it sounds completely in the zone, surrounded by equally staggering experiments via. ‘Ares’ and ‘Halo’, the latter being a back to basics effort that’s pulled off probably because of the return to production-duties for Paul Epworth, the man behind the debut. The former being one of the stand-out moments on the record, swinging like a pendulum between gloomy and hazy down-tempo moments of sheer beauty, into a drugged-up, screeching Okereke. It works. Effortlessly.

‘Ares’ is the first indication of lyrical progression from a man who is getting bottles thrown at him far too much for his personal take on events that would to some people, be too near the bone to share. Sure, a lot of the words printed on the sleeve notes of the previous record were, over-done, hyperbolic at times and overall, cheesy. This time round, they sound comfortable and assured. ‘Ares’ plays host to a list of Okereke’s least favourite elements of life, ranging from “war, war, war, war!” to “first person singular”, it’s a brave attempt to engage, and I was engaged from the first line. One particular line though, stands out as dodgy. The “you used to take your watch off…” line, which has already been criticised from every listener, so we won’t go any further with that. Having acknowledged how uncomfortable it makes you feel though, eventually the rest of ‘Trojan Horse’ wins you over with its spiky determination and instantaneous likeability.

But despite the return to form with the rock-out moments, it could be Jackknife Lee’s second contribution to the band that has made this record so special at times. ‘Biko’ and ‘Signs’, the beautiful songs of woe on the record, sound like his work. ‘Biko’ has a looped guitar line, and the occasional words in your ear of “you’re…not..doing…this…alone” courtesy of the band’s frontman. A testimony to the South African activist perhaps, it’s clearly personal. ‘Signs’, even more so. There are times on this record where everything sounds too compressed and glossy, but ‘Signs’ suits it all. The glockenspiel + pads approach is complimented perfectly by soothing vocals, weeping the words “At your funeral I was so upset, So upset so upset, In your life you were larger than this, Statue statuesque” – for those on the love side of the love-him-or-hate-him vocalist, it’s an emotional part of the record.

The three concluding tracks could go down as the album’s strongest. ‘Zephyrus’, containing one of the record’s many God references, is ‘Intimacy’s darkest track, and perhaps most prominent and memorable. Commencing minimally before being casually backed by a brooding melody in the chorus and eventually, a choir, in equally sombre spirits. It’s a combination of musical elements that would usually clash like red and green, but it works brilliantly. ‘Better Than Heaven’ has a similar dark outer rim but inside you hear Kele and co. getting a little more into the spirit of things. “Much too, much too safe, Much too, much too typical” continues a hyped-up Okereke, summing up everything Bloc Party have decided to go against with this record.

And as it closes with the lengthy yet compelling ‘Ion Sqaure’, you find yourself being pushed to find a duff moment. The same can’t be said for ‘A Weekend In The City’ but ‘Intimacy’ is consistent excellence, and I never expected to be saying that whatsoever.