By Bryan Kerwin
Good news, hype machine: Bloc Party = still good. The UK quartet’s second full length, A Weekend in the City, takes all the urgency and emotion of Silent Alarm, adds some minimal bells and whistles, and comes out of the tunnel with an album that’s not a giant departure and is just as satisfying.
The CD opens with the insistent, incantatory “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” which finds frontman Kele Okereke pushing out a soft falsetto as well as a droning, ominous chorus. The song exemplifies the sonically darker textures that permeate nearly all the following tracks here, with smooth, deep guitar tones sitting on top buzzing, occasionally house-ish bass lines. It also shows the fervent energy that Bloc Party musters better than most other indie bands a quality shown later by “Uniform,” a song that smolders for its first half before bursting into a fiery, breathlessly rocking guitar finale.
Other tracks, like first single “I Still Remember,” replicate the romantic yearning of “This Modern Love” with airy guitar and Okereke’s impassioned wail. Okereke has described the song as trying to give a different perspective on desire, with lyrics that relate to two schoolboys. Risks like this are at once a strength and a weakness for the album; by reaching farther lyrically, Okereke has left behind some of the crypticness of their first release, and typically comes up on top. But he also ends up with some un-artful and overly earnest moments, like he was trying too hard to be intelligent and clear at the same time.
No way does it ruin the album though; Bloc Party’s strengths are firmly in place, and they pull everything off with gusto. If they have some heart-on-sleeve tendencies, hey, at least they mean it.