02 February, 2015

Bloc Party - "Silent Alarm" - 10 years on...

Silent Alarm: 10 years on... 
Written by Sam L. Roake


I remember it like it happened yesterday, Spring 2004, thumbing through the music channels on Sky, I had a channel flicking routine in those days, flick onto The Amp (or was it the NME channel back then?) dial it back to P-Rock and Kerrang on the off chance of finding a good song before heading back to MTV2. This was back in the days where MTV2 was actually good; Zane Lowe was the host of Gonzo, Sifl & Olly sketches bookended the ad breaks and MTV actually played decent indie music! Perhaps it was fate that I landed on MTV2 at that precise moment because what happened changed my life forever; I heard my first Bloc Party song.

 

That song was Banquet, quite possibly their best track, certainly their most iconic, the foreboding drum beats, the chants, that guitar riff! I was absolutely enthralled, I had never heard or seen anything quite like it, the band just seemed so unique to me. I had this surprisingly emotional feeling deep inside me at the end of the track, a feeling I only ever seem to get when I hear or see something genuinely special for the first time, it’s so difficult to explain or put into words but I like to think all Bloc Party fans had the same feeling when they heard their first Bloc track, for this geeky and socially awkward 16 year old at the time it was groundbreaking stuff and naturally I went straight online afterwards to find as much of their music as I could.

From that day on I was hooked, we had the follow up with ‘Little Thoughts’ (still my all time favourite Bloc Party track) and later on in the year the video for ‘Helicopter ‘dropped, if the first 2 tracks were the build-up, this was the main event, the stage where I went from merely liking the band to making them my favourite band of all time. There is something special about Helicopter, perhaps it’s the enigmatic music video, the batman t-shirt Kele wears in the video, the edgy guitar riff or the politically motivated lyrics. It could be the combination of all 4 band members showcasing their immense talents and performing it as an end of set finale track or maybe it’s so endearing because it’s raw, powerful and catchy as hell!



So here we are, on the 14th of February 2015, 10 years to the day that Silent Alarm, Bloc Party’s iconic debut album came out and the reason why I’m writing this piece. Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party recently stated that he had no intentions of doing an anniversary tour in celebration of the album, something that I feel many fans were anticipating as a potential option, which is a shame but I think most fans would take a fifth album over that any day of the week so I’m not going to grumble about that too much. 2005 was without a doubt a vintage year for Indie Music in particular (great albums from Tom Vek, Doves and Idlewild to name but a few) but hands down Silent Alarm was the album of the year artistically and critically, so much so that it was named album of the year by the NME and nominated for a Mercury Music Prize.


For me, Bloc Party just had this aspect of ‘cool’ about them, Kele Okereke instantly sticking out and defying indie music conventions as the most unique kind of front man a band could have with an obvious talent for fantastic song writing and guitar playing. Matt Tongs energetic (and topless) drumming which gives the band its heart and soul. Russell Lissack’s amazing innovative guitar riffs and music experimentation taking what could be a mundane track and elevating it to something amazing and lastly Gordon Moakes driving each track forward and taking it up another level with instantly brilliant and memorable bass lines. The band members complement each other so well and the album is instantly better for it, take album opener ‘Like Eating Glass’ for example, it starts with Russell’s delay pedal, creating that jagged edge guitar twang followed by Gordy’s intense bass line gradually creeping up and up on the listener before the quietly developing drum and hi-hat beat from Matt appears, finally Kele’s guitar hook kicks into gear and the vocals start at a yelping pace. As a result, in less than a minute of the album starting, you instantly know what the band are about and that you are in for something very special indeed.



So why do I love Silent Alarm? I have asked myself this time and time again over the years and I keep getting the same answer, it’s been the ‘one constant’ in my life. For every shitty first date I’ve been on, for every good and bad day at college, university and work and even during every long drive home in the car after watching a non-league football match with my Granddad on a Saturday afternoon. The songs from Silent Alarm have soundtracked my life for 10 long years. For example the always uplifting ‘This Modern Love’ putting a smile on my face and convincing me that things will always get better when I’ve felt down and upset or the moody Gang of Four-esque ‘Price of Gas’ getting my blood pumping as I walk home listening to my iPod during cold winter days. From the hazy laid back vibes of ‘Blue Light’ to the world-weary 2 track finale of ‘Plans’ & ‘Compliments’ I’ve found it to be the perfect album regardless of the particular emotional mood you happen to be in. It might sound a tad clich├ęd for one to say this about their favourite album but I really do think each track is life changing in its own unique way because Silent Alarm has always been there, through thick and thin, justifying every good and bad choice I’ve made in my life, keeping my spirits up, keeping me entertained and ALIVE.



The album holds up so well on repeat listening, each track working perfectly in its selected position on the track listing, not a single shred of filler in what is a long album by today’s standards (58 mins) even if I am still a bit peeved that Little Thoughts was left off the album. Despite being a perfect snapshot of 2005 it still manages to be relevant 10 years later and that perhaps is its lasting legacy, every time I listen to the album I get something new from it as it grows up alongside me, the world changing around it. A lot has happened to me in those 10 years since I was a geeky, socially awkward teenager thumbing through the music channels but it really has defined my life and me as a person. Just as I’m quite convinced it will have done the same for many of the millions of people who have bought the album since its release. The band has never been better and in 10 years, despite their best efforts, has never quite been able to match the dizzying heights of their powerful debut; it’s a rare beast, the perfect album.

If you ask me, Silent Alarm needs no big celebration, no anniversary tour nor a deluxe re-release.
It just needs to be listened to over and over again, passed down to future generations and cherished forever by the fans.

Here’s to the next 10 years.

God Bless Bloc Party.