Bias should have no place in objective journalism so I apologise if some does creep into this review, for Bloc Party are one of the groups (if not the group) that first exposed to me a new music genre and helped build on my musical interests. Silent Alarm is the dramatic debut from the band, released in 2005 to critical acclaim. It was this intense piece of edgy guitar rock that introduced this supremely skilled quartet to the world.
The lead single ‘Banquet’ gives you an immediate sense of the atmosphere. Starting off with clever synchronisation of the rhythm and lead guitar, and later building a darker vibe as the track dynamically layers all the previous effects with frontman Kele Okereke’s energy coming to the forefront, we see that Bloc Party are able to create catchy and wonderfully refined hits which shook the scene. ‘Helicopter’ is of similar vein with even more frantic riffs and backing vocals to compliment the political undercurrent of the lyrics, which are recurrent throughout the course of the album. ‘Positive Tension’ gets even more in your face, with a lot of very ordered and very loud noise and provides more evidence of the sheer ability of drummer Matt Tong’s skills.
Bloc Party of course weren’t the only group trying to evoke new-wave tendencies throughout the early part of the decade, with bands such as The Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand aiming for similar nostalgia. However, for a breath of fresh air the band also show they have true creative and intelligent musical diversity when they tone down the aggression and have introspective moments with more subtle melodic songs. This blend epitomises the feelings of the generation of youth that the album was certainly aimed at – those of mild anger, fear, confused love, and fast lifestyles. Bloc Party prove they have thought carefully about the end of this album, retaining the urgency that has been omnipresent throughout. ‘So Here We Are’ sees Kele move to a more poignant style with the guitars faded into the background for a more expansive outing. ‘Compliments’ is drearier, but also allows the band to delve into some more experimentation and produced effects, which can be seen as an exposé to their newer albums.
Silent Alarm is a marvel in that it has a raw sound full of angst, yet at the same time is a smart and wonderfully crafted album from a band that had clearly mastered their musical direction at such an early stage. This precision and tight rhythm is something that you would normally expect from a band that has already produced their edgy debut. Near perfection is where you could place this, although several elements let it down. ‘Price of Gas’ takes the political reactionary styling a shade too far, and the drama is lost towards the end especially with Kele vocally not being quite able to change his tone to fit the slower tracks.
Even though their subsequent releases A Weekend in the City and Intimacy saw the band focus on electronic exploration to mixed reviews, with Kele taking it even further in his solo work, Silent Alarm was where they enjoyed their best success; and with the band rumoured to reunite and record new material in 2012, we can only hope they try to reconstruct the music that brought them such success.
Silent Alarm was released by Wichita on 2nd February 2005.