Bloc Partyn - Alpha Games Music Album Reviews

Bloc Partyn - Alpha Games Music Album Reviews
Taking cues from their early records, Bloc Party’s sixth album successfully marries post-punk with dance grooves—and confusingly devotes a lot of its energy to spite.

Once again, Bloc Party have returned from a lengthy hiatus and followed up a baffling, mixed-bag album with one that harkens back to their glory days. Roughly every half-decade since 2008’s Intimacy knocked the post-punk revivalists off their axis, Bloc Party have produced an album that feels like a direct reaction to the one that preceded it. In 2012, Four attempted to console fans aghast that Intimacy’s queasy electronics had sidelined one of the tightest rhythm sections in indie rock. By 2016’s Hymns, that rhythm section (bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong) had quit the band, leaving frontman Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack to craft a weird franken-child of gospel, dance, and stadium rock by their lonesomes. Like clockwork, here’s Alpha Games, a record that seems destined to bear a sticker emblazoned with the one “return to form” quote the label can track down.

The band’s sixth album checks all the requisite Silent Alarm and A Weekend in the City boxes, if such musical attributes can be reduced to a dispassionate list. This is a tightly wound collection of tracks led primarily by dueling Telecasters and dance beats. It’s mostly uptempo until the band slows for a few stunningly pretty ballads in the second half. The production is unshowy yet full-bodied enough to emphasize the rhythmically minded low end and precision hi-hats. The “new” rhythm section—bassist Justin Harris (of Menomena) and drummer Louise Bartle—has been playing live with Bloc Party for almost seven years now, and their take on the band’s early sound is accurate but chunky, as it was on the live runthrough of Silent Alarm released in 2019. A devoted fan with a magnifying glass could identify every trick Alpha Games lifts from Silent Alarm in particular—the whirring effect Lissack uses on his “Traps” solos recalls both “Helicopter” and “Banquet”; on “By Any Means Necessary,” like “Positive Tension” before it, Okereke sings of a woman hellbent on getting “it,” whatever that may be—but Alpha Games isn’t all nostalgic replication, at least not thematically.

As a singer, Okereke is usually defined by his wide-eyed wonderment. This is a guy who once made the modest prospect of driving to Brighton on the weekend seem like an opportunity for rebirth. More recently, on last year’s arresting solo album The Waves Pt. 1, he turned a simple nighttime stroll into a reverie about the passage of time. On Alpha Games, his eyes narrow into a winking leer in service of a loose, startlingly embittered arc that, amid constant themes of hedonism and brutal honesty, largely revolves around cutting off “frenemies.” It’s tempting to ask why, at this ostensibly stable point in the 40-year-old’s life and career, he’s chosen to focus on life patterns that usually accompany an initial rise to stardom, but it’s hard to imagine an answer capable of undercutting the album’s garishly pulpy lyrics.

Okereke leans hard into a persona that drives a “matte-black ’Rari,” lives at the club, and suffers no fools. Opener “Day Drinker” introduces us to an alcoholic who greets his brother’s intervention attempt by telling him he has a “conniving tongue” and that “God hates the faint of heart, the weak-willed, and the profligate.” The rest of the album is dominated by a similarly caustic tone, ranging from bratty (“You can’t hang with us”) to brutal (“I will die die die and be born again/Before I fuck with you again”), and usually directed at unnamed hangers-on. “The things you do for blow or a little guest list/Have consequences,” he coos on “Rough Justice,” the first of two occasions when he calls out parasitic +1 seekers. Most biting is “Callum Is a Snake,” in which Okereke “officially” washes his hands of someone whose “eyes are too close together,” telling him, “I thought you came from better stock.”

The bulk of the album’s aforementioned stunningly pretty ballads reveal themselves to be crueler than they initially sound, but on “Of Things Yet to Come,” Okereke steps back and offers a more perceptive view of this proudly messy lifestyle. Here, those friends are “lost,” rather than tossed off, as the narrator casts blame on himself and wonders, “Am I best left in the past?” Regardless of the album’s relationship to truth and fiction, “Of Things Yet to Come” is the only time it offers anything beyond one-dimensional characters. It doesn’t hurt that the song concludes with Lissack launching into his finest tapestry of lush, Edge-like guitar textures in a career filled with them.

The few things that work on Alpha Games have little to do with their similarity to, or departure from, Bloc Party’s most celebrated work. This is by far the band’s most successful attempt at marrying post-punk with actual dance grooves: Bartle manages to channel Matt Tong-style intensity while playing minimalist patterns more akin to the programmed beats that eventually overtook the group’s former drummer. Okereke and Lissack’s best performances might recall certain aspects of the ones from their mid-twenties, though with the added perspective and experience evident on “Of Things Yet to Come.” The album’s best hooks feature Bartle duetting with Okereke, a new trick in Bloc Party’s repertoire. These strengths are even more frustrating because they reveal an alternative path to the binary rut in which this band has been stuck for 10 years. If Bloc Party continue to build on the unique strengths of their new members, and if Okereke takes his songwriting as seriously as he did on his last solo release, there’s still a glimmer of hope for the band that was once seen as the most promising member of a flash-in-the-pan scene.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Bloc Partyn - Alpha Games Music Album Reviews Bloc Partyn - Alpha Games Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on May 13, 2022 Rating: 5


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