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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Bloc Party
A Weekend in the City

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

February 19, 2007
A Weekend in the City is an album of heady aesthetic principles. Bloc Party take a detour from quirky guitar dynamics, instead heading out in favor of heavy synthesization and clean production values. Jacknife Lee weighs in as the album's producer, bringing with him some leftover baggage from U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and is ultimately unable to steer the London quartet clear of minimally interesting subject matter, which they fall prey to in high volumes. Compared with their breakthrough debut Silent Alarm, Bloc Party have definitely taken a turn for the worse here, unloading an album that can be abrasive in its constant criticism of modern London and which is without the benefit of a calculated message of the variety that Radiohead deliver. Between spreading itself so thin between genres and trying too hard to split hairs lyrically, any redeeming qualities that A Weekend in the City might possess are hard to see from the surface.

Kele Okereke has apparently developed an addiction to multi-tracking his vocals, as the sonic effect is featured prominently in all of A Weekend in the City's eleven tracks. The layering is a bit strange enough itself, but what is truly confounding is how often the vocals are disheveled, leaving Okereke sounding like a second-rate Chris Martin. Whereas Coldplay have established their own platform, Bloc Party seem to have found themselves wading in their own hype, waving furiously for attention to ensure someone is still listening. This brings into question whether or not the subject matter is of any legitimate concern to the band members or if it's just cause for publicity.

The opening track pronounces, "Cocaine won't save you/ Because East London is a vampire/ It sucks the joy right out of me," which is coincidentally how I feel towards the song. To some this may sound like the voice of the Generation, but there is a lingering feeling that you've heard it all before. Allen Ginsberg once wrote, "Nobody saves America by sniffing cocaine. Jiggling your knees blankeyed in the rain, when it snows in your nose you catch cold in your brain." Sure, juxtaposing rock music with poetry is silly, but so is relentless dramatic babble about the vampirism of East London.

"The Prayer" aligns eerie incantations with the spectacular Post-Punk Revival signature that fans have come to love. It's a sinisterly danceable affair. The focus then jumps from amphetamine highs to racism in the tabloids, making for an ambitious cluster fuck that nearly accomplishes its goals early on only to drop the ball in four of the last five songs. The exclusion being track 10, "I Still Remember". This track is as practical and obvious as one might hope for. Kele sings in a sort of nostalgic and innocent tone, "And on that teachers' training day/ We wrote our names on every train/ Laughed at the people off to work/ So monochrome and so lukewarm."

There was a lot of pressure on Bloc Party to produce an extraordinary sophomore album. In a sense, the group folded with their effort to forward themselves into the limelight. If there is a way to revert back to they're going to be around for some time to come. Needless to say, the British Press (NME) are still going to drool over this piece like they have done unnecessarily with bands like The View and The Kooks. Next time it would be wise to lay off the synthesizers and brighten up the lyrics. One or two uplifting songs never hurt anyone. As an album, A Weekend in the City seems eagre to please and has too much in common with the guy who tries too hard to get the girl, falling all over himself throughout the courting process.

Reviewed by Calvin Kemph

See other reviews by Calvin Kemph



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