Vice Records, 2005
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/04/2006
Much like the ‘90s, the music world has been saturated with proclamations of the next "it" band over the last few years. With the Internet and PR companies in overdrive, bands have blown up and faded into obscurity in a matter of months, not years -- The Vines, The Editors, The Strokes, Death Cab For Cutie, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, The Shins, Sufjan Stevens -- and the list goes on.
If you’ve been burned by any of these bands, you may be reluctant to buy into the next hype. Early in 2005, a buzz surrounded Bloc Party as being the next "big" band in indie sites like Pitchforkmedia.com. Unlike other bands that have created such a buzz, Bloc Party stands out for both its political-leaning lyrics and the fact that the album that brought them attention both in the
Silent Alarm has all the traits of great ‘80s college rock albums. "Price of Gas" and "She’s Hearing Voices" have the political drive of early passionate U2. "Like Eating Glass" and "So Here We Are" have the melancholy, morose romanticism of the Cure’s best work and songs like "Pioneers" and "Banquet" are catchy enough to dance to, a la The Clash’s ‘80s output. Throw in a devastating ballad with "This Modern Love" and you start to believe that Silent Alarm is too calculated to achieve the greatness of albums like The Arcade Fire’s Funeral or The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells.
Lyric-wise, Silent Alarm attacks the standard objects of scorn and ridicule: materialism, imperialism and apathy. "Why can’t you be more European / Bastard child of guilt and shame / Bury your head in the sand / I’m thinking six, six, six," Kele Okereke sings in "Helicopter." In "Luno," Okereke unleashes a rapid-fire of confrontational lyrics: "There will be no hesitation / There will be no confrontation / There will be no indication / There will be no cause / there will be no exultation."
Most of the songs in Silent Alarm are insanely catchy, thanks to Okereke and Russell Lissack’s guitar work. "Helicopter" has one of the coolest guitar solos in recent memory and Matt Tong’s drumming on "Pioneers" makes you want to break out into a spontaneous mosh. Though the album was recorded sans keyboards, the songs are so danceable that a remix album has already been pressed.
One of the curses of making such an accessible album and having a social conscience is that Silent Alarm is currently all over the airwaves and in theaters. Saturn has used "So Here We Are" in one of their commercials. If you’ve played any racing game for the PS2 or X-Box, you’ve probably heard "Helicopter." But be it a commercial, through alternative rock radio or a video game, Silent Alarm is an album that deserves to be heard.