Is Kele Okereke confused? Has he been consumed by his own hipster irony? With the release of Bloc Party’s fourth studio album, the creatively titled Four, it appears the songwriter has lost his touch. After a drawn-out hiatus, the band seems to have forgotten itself. Turning to mismatched influences — a curious mixture of Nirvana and Radiohead — they’ve produced nothing more than a bemusing hodge-podge of disengaged tunes.
It’s the grunge twist that really baffles the listener. Okereke has spoken of a newfound admiration for grunge heroes Nirvana. The fact is, however, that Bloc Party’s unfortunate Nirvana imitation would make Kurt Cobain turn over in his grave. A droning blanket of distorted guitars pervades most of the record, almost as if the album were recorded next to a construction site. Songs like “Kettling” and “We Are Not Good People” lack any structure or purpose and are as insipid as oral drilling. On “3×3,” meanwhile, Okereke snarls the phrases “no one loves you” and “no means no” in an affected metal voice that’s simultaneously comic and disquieting.
Outside the grunge catastrophe lie hidden a few passable tracks, though marginally so. These contain a subtext more consistent with Bloc Party’s past work, but with the vital energy and urgency removed. “Octopus” includes a signature spiky rhythm, consisting of biting guitar chords and an intriguingly choppy melody. “Day Four” is another decent effort, though its subdued guitar arpeggios suggest a Radiohead copy act, while falling short of Jonny Greenwood’s power and emotional gravity.
Sadly, Four indicates no hope of another “Helicopter” or “Hunting for Witches,” some of Bloc Party’s earlier standout tracks. The album is a shapeless, bodiless work, with no true intent or pull. With their long-anticipated return, Bloc Party have done nothing but effectively seal their demise.
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