One of the albums of the past year in UK indie circles and beyond, "Silent Alarm" is a relentless splurge of fast-paced, modern rock. It has everything that a good debut should, a fresh distinctive sound, earnest songwriting flair and musical literacy. That pinging, searing style chosen by guitarist Russell Lissack is currently popular from the likes of Interpol, but Bloc Party's take on it is full of youthful energy, rather than knowing coolness. Kele Okereke's breathless London-accented vocals are peppered with punkish shouty mannerisms, without being overdone. But maybe the essential ingredient that makes them just that bit more exciting is Matt Tong's drums, pumping away with an almost prog-rock hyperactivity.
It's so relentless that even on the nominal "softer" tracks, "Blue Light" and "This Modern Love" the tempo never drops. Not until going-home anthem "Compliments", that is, adorned with Cure-like goth guitar licks. Almost every track is a potential single. They've certainly been around a bit musically, shown by the sneering ska rhythms that propel "Banquet", the new-wavey 80's keyboard flourishes that litter "Price of Gas", and the sense of stadium expansiveness that makes "Like Eating Glass" such a strong start to the album, along with its great whirling melodies.
"She's Hearing Voices" is perhaps the most arresting, combining electrifying guitar splashes and dusty landscapes like something from U2's "Unforgettable Fire", with a dash of goth thrown in. On "This Modern Love" their influences are most clearly on their sleeves, its high bass and euphoric guitar jangle being straight out of New Order's book (think "Regret"), but this is one of the best tunes. I'm sure the tense, angular rocker "Pioneers" pays tribute to the stomping drum beat from Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" (while contemporaries the Futureheads had the balls to cover it).
As I write this, they have just lost the Mercury Prize to Antony and the Johnsons. No complaints, fair decision, the guy's got a fine voice, but respect is still due to "Silent Alarm" for being one of the best of 2005 so far.
September 6, 2005