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A Weekend In The City
Artist: Bloc Party
Label: Vice Records
Length: 11 tracks

Martin Amis recently told the Guardian newspaper how he was looking forward to taking up a Manchester University Professorship because things can change around you without your noticing, and being among students will help him read where the culture is. Or those who won't have the academic privileges of Britain's best novelist, they should pick up the new album by Bloc Party. This is a state of the nation address--at least a state of the youth address--and it is raw, honest, vulnerable and prophetically sad.

Musically, Bloc Party have employed Jacknife Lee as producer, and that leads to inevitable Snow Patrol comparisons. At times the same Snow Patrol sound does sneak through. A driving drum beat makes you think Jonny Quinn, and the soaring build-ups is a technique Gary Lightbody employs for poignancy. There are radio hits here like "The Prayer," "Hunting For Witches," "I Still Remember" and "On," but there are other songs where you sometimes get the feeling that they are not fully formed. At the same time it is Bloc Party's aim to be spikier, more angular and punkier.

It is the content that makes Weekend In the City so important and why Kele Okereke is being dubbed "voice of a generation." Again, I would have to say that poetically it can at times be lacking in rhythm and rhyme like he has not had time to turn over the thoughts in his head to give them literary form. Again this might be influenced by the aforementioned Lightbody, who though more mature in his wordplay, was never going to be forced to find a rhyme or be curtailed by lyrical rules. Where Okereke trumps his Norn Irish compatriot is in delving deep, not to the politics of the heart for a Chasing Cars to play out the last episode of Grey's Anatomy_ but to the soul of the nation. Off the back of Live 8 and constant social justice campaigning, The Patrolies seemed a little fearful of getting too serious, but Bloc Party have all the fun you are going to get in their name. The courage to nail your generation deserves immense respect and not a little attention.

Here are guys telling it as it is in a world where they have everything they could ever want and yet live in the shadow of terror plots on public transport and the racism and paranoia that adds to everyday life. They are self confessed "lukewarm"--a Biblical word that is used in two songs. In the opening "Song Of Clay" ("Disappear Here"): "So I enjoy and I devour / Flesh and wine and luxury / But in my heart I am lukewarm / Nothing ever really touches me." In "I Still Remember," it is the workers on the tube trains that they pity, "So monochrome and so lukewarm." The conclusion of "Uniform" is again one of self pity: "There was a sense of disappointment as we let the mall / All the young people looked the same." Back to "Song or Clay" and
"East London is a vampire, it sucks the joy right out of me." The whole thing comes across as a discordant sound of latent twenty-something adolescence bouncing around in the chaos of spiritual vacuum.

"The Prayer," as a title gives you some hope but actually instead of an interruption of transcendent grace to lift you out of the mire, is a confirmation of all that is wrong. We are so deluded in our egotistical, selfish hedonism that we don't know what we should be asking for. So God is only considered when we are seeking more of the symptoms rather than a cure--"Lord give me grace and dancing feet / And the power to impress / Lord give me grace and dancing feet / Let me outshine the moon / Is it so wrong to crave recognition?" Actually, yes! The modern ill is simply our self-obsession and need
for attention in a world that, if we do get lucky enough to get it, snaps it away in double quick time. The wisdom of the ancient text that suggests a gaining of the world comes with a losing of our very soul has been very clearly declared by Bloc Party. Here is a band that knows that its generation has it better than any other generation who has ever lived but is aware of the bankruptcy of that wealth.

Steve Stockman  March 11, 2007


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