Bloc Party fans were somewhat disillusioned when the London group went on hiatus toward the end of 2009. Four, the band’s aptly named fourth album, is not a ‘comeback’ record per se, however, it does reaffirm the quartet as a powerful force in the world of alternative rock. Produced by Alex Newport (At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta) the album achieves a terrific balance between light and shade. In comparison to 2008’s electronica-soaked release Intimacy, Four revives a darker, heavier and more intricate aesthetic, albeit one that is presented quite elegantly.
Album opener So He Begins to Lie is driven by the edgy guitar riffs of Russell Lissack and the tight percussion work of Matt Tong. Kele Okereke’s vocal range is immediately on full display, the song’s space-rock feel coupling with a great use of dynamics to create a sophisticated yet powerful opening track. The dark post-punk song that follows 3×3 possesses a great emotional intensity. Hushed vocals repeat ‘No one loves you’, as Gordon Moakes’ pulsing bass lines build a fantastic sense of tension.
The rapidly repeating and glitchy guitar lines of lead single Octopus create an indie-rock dance track with a contagious atmosphere. The song’s catchy chorus hooks feed the album’s momentum, with lyrics such as ‘I don’t know why/I feel like crying’ providing an emotional base to the song’s narrative. The musicianship is outstanding, with Lissack’s guitar solo echoing that of Daft Punk’s track Aerodynamic. The elegant aesthetic produced by the echoing guitars and staggered vocals of the track that follows, Real Talk, create a sombre yet spacey tone, which is both entrancing and uplifting.
Kettling is driven by heavy guitar riffs, and holds a terrific intensity. Okereke sings ‘They can’t stop this/We can feel it in our bones’ as Lissack’s fantastic guitar work comes to resemble that of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins. The sombre intro of Day Four, complete with muted guitar lines, builds to a truly expressive chorus. The track is one of the more emotive on the album, and it flows beautifully; the song’s dynamics are controlled perfectly, the track resembling a post-rock soundscape as it fades out.
The post-hardcore intensity of Coliseum is built around erratic guitar riffs and muted screams. The song is short, yet extremely powerful. Team A then revives the glitchy guitars of Octopus, before developing into a percussion-driven riff-heavy track, complete with spacey guitar lines and a contagious energy. The momentum begins to slip in the last few tracks, but is recovered well by We’re Not Good People. Its dark riffs encapsulate the album’s fantastic intensity, both on an emotional and musical level.
Producer Alex Newport has taken full advantage of Bloc Party’s musicianship; Four represents a band who continue to flourish, a band who are almost certainly at the height of their power. Newport’s influence can be seen in the album’s focus on expressive guitar-rock. However, Bloc Party have embraced experimentation in order to promote their own artistic growth, and to dispel any worries their fans might have been holding on to.