After all of the tabloid-like press that the band have been churned through in the last year or so; almost all revolving around frontman Kele Okereke; it was beginning to feel like there’d never be a fourth Bloc Party record. So when the group finally announced they were back in the studio, the response was understandably one of relief and excitement. A few high profile shows (including three sold out shows at NYC’s Terminal 5) later and a lot of slowly leaked information later, here it is. So what exactly is the imaginatively named ‘Four’ all about?
Well, upon a first listen, it’s one of mixed feelings. Those who wanted it to be like the mid-noughties with another Silent Alarm were the first to be (rightfully) turned off whilst those who expected them to continue down the Intimacy/”One More Chance” routes of the latter end of their relatively shot careers (at the time), were also quick to make comments about Kele’s solo career affecting his return to the band. Even the mid-era lovers were slightly baffled by the heavier guitar, occasionally shouted lyric and less catchy chorus’. Was this going to be a hugely underwhelming record?
No, of course it wasn’t. Bloc Party, a band who’ve sat on the edge of bill-topping for about four years now aren’t exactly the kind of band that were just going to pick up from where they left of, nor were they going to bow to the pressure of returning to their oldest material. This isn’t a Stone Roses revival, there’s no failed musicians returning to their former glory here. Instead there’s four musicians here each of discernable talent moving forward in the way they always have; theirs.
Lead single “Octopus” is the nearest to the pleaser for the masses that many were expecting and even that signals a break from older material. The catchy guitar riff mixed with the intricate drum line and blend of powerful and delicate singing is all there. The only thing that’s loosened is the bass and I defy you to say that about openers “So He Begins to Lie” and “3x3”. They’re powerful, progressive and sound like they could fill arenas. Based on the Terminal 3 show that streamed and the hugely different setlists on the other two nights, the Londoners have already found ways to slot the altered soundscapes into their increasingly enjoyable shows.
There’s something for everyone in here though. For the Silent Alarmer there’s “Real Talk” and “VALIS”, with their more youthful side of their guitar and vocal led parts playing off each other. For the WITC lover; “So He Begins to Lie” is “Hunting for Witches” +6 years and “Truth” is the second half of “I Still Remember” and one of the most enjoyable calm tracks on the record. Finally for the Intimacy fan, there’s even “Team A” with a pulse built for remixing (whilst we’re on about remixing, check out the SLDGHMR remix of Octopus and tell me that you can’t dance to Bloc anymore).
For anyone ready to embrace a change in the band and take on a bit more rock into their indie dance idealism; there’s the rest of Four. I really don’t know what people are complaining about. It’s hardly perfect, it’s scattered and doesn’t really have a definitive feel to it and there’s certainly better Bloc on other albums, but as a collection, there’s no reason these tracks shoulsn’t be allowed to stand on their own feet with the same pride that Bloc Party have always shyly had.