Mixing the melancholic whimsy of The Cure, the epic atmosphere of U2, the dark electronics of Depeche Mode, and the frantic energy of alternative punk into one huge sound seems like a chaotic project doomed to fail, but British rockers Bloc Party have been doing it since 2003. Their debut album “Silent Alarm” celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this year, and its surreal sonic tunes still stand strong today. The album was released in February of 2005 to critical acclaim and saw significant commercial success worldwide, earning several award nominations and wins along the way.
The first track, “Like Eating Glass,” sets the standard for the many rich layers of Bloc Party’s songs. It starts with two metallic guitar parts, slowly adding the rapid drums and then the meaty chords. With this cascade of sound in motion, the lead singer Kele Okereke’s soaring voice makes a grand entrance. The lyrics are dark, even violent and self-loathing, but bold and unforgivingly so. Tracks like “Helicopter,” “Positive Tension,” and “Banquet” embrace a similar edgy drive full of tension and excitement.
Songs like “Blue Light,” “So Here We Are,” and my personal favorite “This Modern Love” have just as much depth but take on a different tone. The aggression is dialed back in exchange for elegant ambience. Guitar parts are cleaner and echo freely. The percussion, now going beyond the typical rock kit to auxiliary and keyboard percussion, is played with more subtlety and takes a back seat to the other instruments. Okereke’s vocals are supported by harmonies from his bandmates, singing words of romance and nostalgia together. The result is almost symphonic and orchestral in quality.
“Silent Alarm” is one of the quintessential modern rock albums of the 2000s. Like The Killers’ “Hot Fuss” that defined the surge of synth rock and The Strokes’ “Is This It” that defined the revival of garage rock, Bloc Party’s unmatched debut set the stage for many indie rock acts to come, especially in the United Kingdom. An amalgamation of sounds that looks ridiculous on paper, Bloc Party proved that passion that transcends genres can produce simultaneously unique and iconic music if approached unabashedly.
Bloc Party’s future albums took different stylistic approaches, taking more or less from certain influences. Their sophomore effort “Weekend in the City” leans towards U2-like anthems, while their third album “Intimacy” is more akin to Depeche Mode’s moody tones. Their fourth, appropriately titled “Four,” was a self-proclaimed return to the more balanced mix of “Silent Alarm.” All four albums, especially “Silent Alarm,” are worth listening to from beginning to end.