Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

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Bloc Party

Album: Silent Alarm
Label: Vice

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It may fit neatly with the now-sound, but Bloc Party's debut album, Silent Alarm, feels more like a modern-day dance-punk standard-bearer than a second-stringer or also-ran. The British band got its first break after singer Kele Okereke blindly sent a demo to Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos; a high-profile opening slot and deafening British buzz followed, coupled with the baggage of constant comparisons. Parallels exist, to be sure, and FF fans should find reason to swivel their hips on Silent Alarm, but if Franz Ferdinand is the nattily dressed, aloof gent at the NME-sponsored party, Bloc Party is the sweaty, dancing kid in a tattered junkshop sport coat sporting a "Britpop Is Boring" badge.

A warm-blooded, street-level reaction to more measured, careful, chart-topping pop bombast, Silent Alarm simmers with a poseless passion that fixes the best bits of wiry '70 post-punk to solid songs, not just exercises in rhythm. There's that, too: Bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong can wind it up and let it go with precision, but they also know when to stretch out and let the melody take over. Silent Alarm's unstoppably solid first half creates a near-perfect tension between the band's sharp and smooth sides: "Like Eating Glass" is a torcher, particularly when Okereke's desperate voice devolves into a shout of "We've got crosses on our eyes / We're walking into the walls again." "Helicopter" and "Banquet" follow in kind with frantic, almost panic-stricken energy tempered by attention to hooks.

If it were all manic tension, Silent Alarm would be an engaging listen, but it also manages to convey real warmth. The brief "Blue Light" turns down the volume but still finds a gentle edge that sounds almost Blur-like, "This Modern Love" describes loneliness with a backbeat, and the almost-ballad "Plans" slowly threatens to explode but succeeds by simmering and shimmying instead. Bloc Party's admirable reach only infrequently exceeds its grasp, and even the songs that don't squarely hit their marks (the overly menacing "Price Of Gas" and the album-closing "Compliments") find powerful, redemptive moments. Taken as a whole, Silent Alarm feels like a glorious dam burst, a blood rush harnessed and shaped into something that can both move and inspire movement.

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