Thursday, February 22, 2007

When You're Wrong, Admit It

I just want to take a moment to revise my review of the Bloc Party album a little. I think I said something about the lyrics being 'completely central to the record's achievement'. On closer inspection, this isn't really true at all. I certainly take issue with some of the harsher criticisms of Kele Okereke's lyrics, particularly as most of those objecting to the harsh treatment of London on 'A Weekend In The City' are of course fully paid up members of the London media set. Many of these people would find it difficult to imagine a London of real tension and brutality, let alone accept that it is the reality of life for many Londoners. Still though, there are problems with Okereke's approach, exacerbated by his tendency towards earnestness. 'Hunting For Witches', whilst admirably confronting the climate of fear, is a little clunky (although it sounds awesome), and the overlong 'Uniform' is genuinely uncomfortable and unpleasant. Okereke's portrait of disaffected adolescents does little to address the real reasons for their boredom, nor does it offer any solutions to this increasingly dangerous problem. The gimmicky production values on this track (hey, they've discovered vocoders!) only add to the discomfort. Essentially, it's one long angry rant with little substance. I haven't managed to hear 'This Is England' yet, but I suspect its omission from the tracklisting was probably a mistake.

Okereke uses the device of repeating simple lyrical ideas, sometimes to powerful impact, but just as frequently he merely emphasises some of his clunkier motifs. The more personal elements of this album may actually be far more substantial than the attempts at politial and social analysis, however laudable Okereke's intentions. 'Kreuzberg' is dense, compelling and moving, all whilst sustaining a daring lyrical simplicity. Apart from the reference to a 'teacher's training day' (those three words will never be made to sound poetic), 'I Still Remember' is equally affecting, albeit somewhat nostalgic. Whilst Okereke is perhaps confronting his sexuality in these songs, they are full of universal experience too.

Musically, the album has real drama and force, although it does sag slightly in the middle, at the same point at which Okereke's preoccupation with adolescent disaffection and cocaine abuse threaten to spoil the whole thing. Essentially, it's a mixed bag - but it at least provokes discussion, which is more than a lot of the derivitive British music currently plodding around.

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