IN 2007 I WAS GOING through my Alternative Rock/Folk phase. I was listening to bands like Jonquil and Sigur Ros and musicians like Beck. As many people do, I latched onto a specific music type and played the hell out of it until I got bored then moved on to other things. Bloc Party had always existed on the periphery of my musical tastes, but I’d never really listened to them with intent. Kele Okereke always just being there as an entity, never really someone I could pick out of a crowd of great musicians. The point is, is that I didn’t really encounter much of Bloc Party until 2008 when they released Intimacy. My first experience of them was at a live gig at The Wolverhampton Civic which, to me, was a hell of a way to be introduced to a band. After loving Intimacy I decided to hit their back catalogue, as it stood at that point, and I remember enjoying A Weekend in the City, but not as much as it’s successor.
So, for the sake of this review, I dusted off my Spotify account and plugged into A Weekend in the City and I found that, almost disappointingly, my view was still unchanged. With the retrospect of where they are now, I can’t get away from comparing it to what they’ve done since. The album itself is a strong one. The ideas put forward by Okereke are ones that Bloc Party have always had no problem tackling; terrorism, political activism, media distortion, young love, daily struggles. The music itself is also very good, it’s punchy, reflects the forthrightness of the lyrics and you can dance to it. When put together they complement each other and form a solid album for a band that was in transition at the time, from the typical rock band set-up to a more electronic sound. So why doesn’t it strike all the chords with me then? Teenage me would’ve loved the energy of this album.
I guess it all comes down to the feel of the album and it feels too much like a stepping stone. The intention of what Bloc Party want to do is there but the polish isn’t perfected just yet. Apart from a few songs the majority of album feels like routine. After the great two opening tracks “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” and “Hunting for Witches” the album falls back into songs that feel very similar to each other. I listened to the re-release album so “Flux” is slotted in-between “I Still Remember” and “Sunday” and that stands out as something different to the rest, but without its addition it would be a slew of similar songs right to the end.
Ironically, the one song that stands out the most is the one that feels the most “typically rock” and that is “Hunting for Witches”. With its simplistic structure it feels as if Bloc Party were able to push at the boundaries of what they’d done before, whilst still having a comfortable sound that people could recognise. The addition of the electronica sounding samples build upon an already good song. It adds that little extra spice and shows the direction Bloc Party want to take their music in the future. The song’s clear lyrics hold a message that still rings true today in an, almost bizarrely relevant way, that being of the mainstream media, particularly The Daily Mail, informing the British public of which “witch” to chase after next. The catchy beat belies the seriousness of the message that Okereke is trying to put forward. This is the Bloc Party I came to love, the one that had a better voice in the form of Intimacy.
So the album itself isn’t a bad one. It’s just not as good as what would be released later on. Hindsight being the clearest of all visions.