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Recorded in the bucolic splendour of County Westmeath, Bloc Party's second album is a labyrinthine concept album about urban living. Better to take a risk, says frontman Kelé Okereke, than to repeat yourself .
Peter Murphy, 02 Feb 2007
Silent Alarm (the title came from a New Scientist article about earthquake warning systems) reached number three in the UK charts, eventually going platinum, and spawned a succession of hit singles including ‘So Here We Are’, ‘Banquet’, ‘Helicopter’ and ‘The Pioneers’. Mainstream America evaded them first time around, but the band have yet to get seriously stuck-in Stateside. Last year’s tour with Panic! At The Disco had to be abandoned when drummer Matt’s lung collapsed during an Atlanta show in November.
“Apparently it’s quite common for tall, skinny guys,” Kelé proffers. “When it happened, I got lots of messages from friends saying it happened to their brothers or boyfriends. I don’t think it’s particularly fatal, it’s just incredibly painful. We cancelled the tour and Matt spent a few months in the States convalescing and we came back to do European press, so it wasn’t the biggest deal for us; he just has to be careful about exerting himself, and he’s given up smoking.”
If much of Silent Alarm’s coiled, sinewy energy derived from the kinetic tension of a band willing to improvise and innovate while still utilising the primary elements of guitar, bass, drums and voice, the new album A Weekend In the City, produced by Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee, sounds like the group consciously orchestrated a quantum leap in terms of their musical vocabulary.
“We were quite aware as a band that it was probably going to shock some people because we didn’t really want to make Silent Alarm part two,” Kelé resumes. “We really tried to push ourselves to explore new sounds, new constructions and new feels. I hope people don’t get put off by the fact that there are no songs that sound like ‘Banquet’. But I really feel that to inspire loyalty from a fanbase, you have to challenge them.
“There’ll be lots of people who have never heard of Bloc Party, coming to us for the first time, and that’s really the mindset that I try to maintain while writing songs. It’s not about trying to patronise your audience, repeating yourselves with that kind of supply-and-demand attitude. It’s really about forcing them to invest in your music, I suppose, to constantly be reappraising what it is you do as a band.