Much more polished, serious, and straight-ahead than their initial EPs suggested, Bloc Party's debut album, Silent Alarm, reveals them as a band equally informed by taut art-punk and the grand gestures and earnestness of groups like Coldplay and U2. Though they're not quite as stadium-sized expansive as either of those two bands (yet), Bloc Party ...
Much more polished, serious, and straight-ahead than their initial EPs suggested, Bloc Party's debut album, Silent Alarm, reveals them as a band equally informed by taut art-punk and the grand gestures and earnestness of groups like Coldplay and U2. Though they're not quite as stadium-sized expansive as either of those two bands (yet), Bloc Party sound a lot more comfortable making proclamations like "Positive Tension"'s "Something glorious is about to happen/A reckoning!" than contemporaries like Franz Ferdinand or the Futureheads would be. Silent Alarm is also more varied than Bloc Party's early work indicated it might be, spanning edgy pop, atmospheric ballads, and angular, percussive tracks that are all served well by the album's big, layered production. The great single "Banquet" and even better opening track, "Like Eating Glass," put Bloc Party's heart-on-sleeve emotions in the service of tight, energetic songwriting that makes their earnestness a little easier to swallow. The gorgeous ballads also make the most of Bloc Party's emotional directness: "Blue Light," "This Modern Love," and "So Here We Are" are some of Silent Alarm's finest moments, with a tension and impact that show how powerful even their softest songs can be. As both the band and album's names imply, Silent Alarm is an overtly political album. Bloc Party fare better than many other bands that dip into that fray, but the results are still mixed: the well-intentioned no-blood-for-oil sentiments of "Price of Gas" are heavy-handed, but "Helicopter"'s Bush-bashing and the antiwar "Pioneers" ("We promised the world we'd tame it/What were we hoping for?") are relatively subtle, and work fairly well as political pop manifestos. As dynamic as Silent Alarm is, it's not perfect: Kele Okereke's yelpy vocals get a little grating on the less melodic songs, and the second half of the album doesn't quite sustain the momentum it had at the beginning, although the bonus remixes of "Plans" by Mogwai, and "Pioneers"" by M83 help make up for this. Although it wouldn't hurt if there were more "party" (the celebratory kind, not the political one) in Silent Alarm, it's still a fine debut album with a lot of passion and polish; it's hard not to respect, if not fully embrace, the intensity and integrity of Bloc Party's music. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
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