When I realised Silent Alarm was 10 years old I couldn’t quite believe it – it’s an absolute genius creation from the indie-rock, London based, four piece Bloc Party. I can name you every track and sing you every perfectly carved line by lyric master Kele Okereke (the band’s front man).
Introduced to the band after being handed a copy of ‘NME Presents Essential Bands 2006’ on a whim to make me ‘cooler’ by my Dad for my birthday, I unearthed a whole new world of ‘indie’ music and became hooked; especially on CD 2, Track 9: Bloc Party’s ‘So Here We Are’. Merely an awkward pre-teen at this point I was transformed into a trace dream-like world by this slow, beautiful song and instantly realised that S Club 7 and Sugababes were no longer going to be included on my Kenwood Portable CD Player.
The fact Silent Alarm made ‘Album of the Year’ in 2005 by NME enticed me to listen to the rest of the album; soon I’d ditched the ‘Essential Bands 2006’ CD and instead proceeded to drive my parents insane with the album consistently on repeat for the next few, (more like 10), years.
The boy’s debut not only received unprecedented praise from indie supporters NME, the album also reached number 3 on the UK Albums Chart before being certified platinum. Individual tracks also had similar success: many making their way into the mainstream and even crossing to the other side of the Atlantic which earned the band sold out Los Angeles and Miami shows, an impressive feat for such a unique sounding band with a previously small, loyal fan base.
Shying away from interviews and secretive about upcoming projects, frontman Okereke is archetypal of the mysterious indie genre. Even in the band’s early days they declined a a contract offer from Parlophone as they did not want to work for a major record label and instead signed a recording contract with East London independent label, Wichita Recordings, mirroring their origins of recording in small hired spaces.
Okereke did state in a rare interview that he wanted Silent Alarm to emphasise the importance of finding pleasure in small things, because “those are the sort of things that can be incredibly touching”. He went on to add that the album was borne out of “a nagging youthful urgency” which I believe to be most prevalent in the lyrics found in ‘The Pioneers’: “We promised the world we’d tame it//What were we hoping for?” The sentiment is clear amidst the fast tempo, killer hooks and foot-tappingly-good drum beats.
There are no low points to the album, each track flows seamlessly into the next, despite the different variations in pace. I was lucky enough to see my favourite track from the album, ‘This Modern Love’, which also happens to be my all-time favourite song, performed live at Earl’s Court in 2013. The song, which is almost never performed now, holds the most haunting and captivating lyrics that bring the listener an onslaught of emotion: “You told me you wanted to eat up my sadness//Well jump on, enjoy, you can gorge away”. Sometimes accused of giving off a depressing vibe, the track listing has this gentler number followed by previously mentioned ‘The Pioneers’ and similarly up-beat ‘Price of Gasoline’. Moreover, the remixed version of the album, appropriately entitled Silent Alarm Remixed, which includes big names in dance/electronic music such as Four Tet and M83, shows the band’s ability to create spontaneous, happiness-fuelled dancing in your living room as well as drug-intensified raving that I witnessed going on around me at their concert – the most violent and crazy gig I have ever attended.
I struggle to foresee a time in my life when I will stop playing this album – in fact I am pretty certain that I will insist on ‘This Modern Love’ being the soundtrack to my wedding, or maybe even my funeral, I haven’t decided yet. This is because there is not a situation or person that cannot relate to Silent Alarm, no matter what your musical preference this album is a small piece of faultlessness that has been followed by Bloc Party’s later releases which are brilliant in their own right, A Weekend in the City, Intimacy and Four and the individual band members’ solo projects. However, in my eyes these will never be completely equal to Silent Alarm’s excellence.
So in the husky, pensive tones of Okereke in ‘Plans’, “Wake up sleepyhead” and go and listen to Silent Alarm as for the past ten years, it has been “happening without you”.
Silent Alarm was released in 2005 via Wichita Records.