Sunday, 11 February 2007

Fear And Loathing For The Weekend

Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City

Something is rotten at the heart of the nation’s capital. A thronged mass of automatons swarm to bars and clubs every weekend, hell bent on hedonism and escaping the futile ache of modern life. Their tools are an endless stream of booze, cocaine, “sleeping pills and Marlboro Reds”. Politics are never approached in conversation, for fear of bringing down the uplifting euphoria of the chemical high.
Relationships are fleeting and unloving. Monday morning looks bleak, the future’s not even worth thinking about. Bloc Party’s second LP is a state of the nation address, approached via the microcosm of a weekend spent partaking and observing of this madness in East London’s trendy locale Shoreditch.
A band as earnest and sometimes self-regarding as Bloc Party are bound to polarise opinion. Many of pop’s best cultural commentators (think Ray Davies or Jarvis Cocker) disguise their intentions with liberal helpings of satire and irony, the first few seconds of ‘A Weekend In The City’ assure that is not be to the case here. ‘Song For Clay (Disappear Here)’ begins with Kele Okereke announcing “I’m trying to be heroic in an age of modernity”, carefully enunciating each syllable. Written in reference to Brett Easton-Ellis’ novel ‘Less Than Zero’, where LA socialite Clay becomes gradually more aware that his life cycle of casual sex and structured drug taking is morally repugnant, the opener is the album’s key track. The drums pound harder and Russell Lissack’s guitar roars louder than on any of debut 'Silent Alarm’, while Okereke lambasts his peers and himself for living “like the ’80’s never happened”.
One of the album’s oldest tracks 'Hunting For Witches’ details the climate of fear and anger following the 7/7 attacks on London’s transport system in 2005. Predictably the Daily Mail is held as the paragon of the following moral panic, although the band’s musical progression is perhaps more important to this track than the band‘s stance, which is apparent just from the title. Expanding on 'Silent Alarm’s jerky rhythms and widescreen guitars, ’A Weekend In The City’ shows an appreciation of New Order, electro and first single 'The Prayer’ seems to be taking its inspiration from pounding hip-hop sub-genre crunk.
Both 'The Prayer’ and 'On’ deal transparently with cocaine use, which is a key theme and catalyst throughout the set. In Okereke’s defence, he does detail the plus points as well as the face-numbing indifference it permeates, but he also labours the point somewhat.
The most impressive issue-based track is ‘Where Is Home?’ which confronts the alienation felt by UK immigrants with an undertow of intellectual violence, while ‘I Still Remember’ with its swirling guitar provides this album’s equivalent to the gorgeous ‘So Here We Are’ from their debut.
‘A Weekend In The City’ winds down with the sentimental hangover ode ‘Sunday’ and 'SRXT’s afterthought of poetry before Monday morning’s return to the corporate grind. An accomplished, thought-provoking and expansive work by one of our most talented bands, the bottom line is that this will fail to win over any new converts. Worthy as the points they raise may be, it is unlikely that Bloc Party’s manifesto will convince the nation’s hedonistic armies to change their ways any more than Easton-Ellis’ novel, but this doesn’t lessen the importance of making these observations. Whether you see them as a beacon of truth in an industry which more readily sells tales of ’Living For The Weekend’ or looking good on dance floors, or as po-faced party poopers, ’A Weekend In The City’ confirms that they’re not going away anytime soon.


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