The last time Bloc Party found itself with a surplus of tracks, those cuts surrounded two stellar albums, which exemplified the band’s early penchant for knowing just when to turn up the intensity and when to cool off. The EPs and non-album tracks released between Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City yielded gems like “Always New Depths,” “Two More Years,” and enough bonus tracks on various deluxe releases to form a B-sides album that would rival AWITC. The Nextwave Sessions, an EP of material from Bloc Party’s 2013 tour, was recorded with Dan Carey (Bat For Lashes, Hot Chip) and continues the band’s prolific output of additional material.
The video for first single “Ratchet”— a heavily edited clip compiling footage from the “Octopus,” “Hunting For Witches,” “Little Thoughts,” and “Helicopter” videos—shows how The Nextwave Sessions represents a button on this chapter in Bloc Party’s history. These guys are tired of each other, of the road, of the rut they’re stuck in where approximating their first two albums feels tired and wild experimentation feels unnatural.
Last year’s Four found the band lurching back to its earliest, most energetic material from early EPs and Silent Alarm, but without any of the melodic coherence or lyrical resonance of songs like “Helicopter” or “This Modern Love.” Nextwave Sessions similarly retraces earlier steps—though without the unfortunate banjo or country-music tinges. “Ratchet” is the album’s standout banger, placing the group’s requisite angular guitars over a slinky Gordon Moakes’ bass line. “French Exit” aims for the same hurtling speed and is spurred on by some of Matt Tong’s most noticeable percussion since A Weekend In The City, which was the last time the rhythm section stood out as much as Kele Okereke’s lyrics and Russell Lissack’s guitar work.
The rest of the EP has the same feel as Four bonus tracks “Mean” and “Leaf Skeleton,” offering softer, catchier pop that echoes earlier songs like “Tulips” and “Sunday.” “Children Of The Future” may be the kind of prophetic pabulum that Okereke’s lyrics have devolved into, but he hasn’t sounded as glorious channeling yearning romanticism since Intimacy bonus track “Letter To My Son.”
Bloc Party seems too fractured, too fragile, and too unfocused to collaborate on another full album that stands with Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City, but with the glorious excess of additional releases, whenever somebody gets around to compiling a complete B-sides collection, it’ll be full of buried treasures. Until then, Bloc Party is once again on hiatus after an uneven tease of strength, a few dance-ready tracks, and a bit of dreamier material made for summer nighttime driving with the windows down. This is Bloc Party now, another band that might have been, settling in for the grind.