Bloc Party – Intimacy

Rating: ★ · · · ·

Several years back, Silent Alarm blew us away. It’s angular guitars cut and diced as we all spun in awe of the newest British band to hit the states. Our minds spinning, we salivated at the chance for more Bloc Party. All I can ask for at this very moment is no more Bloc Party.

Two albums after their debut, they’ve weighed me down with their efforts to recreate that original brilliance, and I’ve got few nice things to say about these boys. In all honesty, this album has left me to encourage them to hang up their hats… call it a day boys.

The opening track doesn’t do anything to prepare the listener for the barrage of trash that is to come their way, except to offer the lyric that “this s**t is long.” Too long indeed. Sprawling guitars matched with little music creativity push my fingers to fast forward beyond this useless noise.

Once you arrive at the second track its clear that the band have taken on an entirely new direction. Intimacy‘s production lacks the exciting percussive sound that they established long ago, instead mixing in what one can only assume are digital drum samples… and do I hear horns? At this point in my listening experience I’m not sure what to say. Speechless.

However, there is some exciting guitar work on the third song, “Halo,” but it’s so muddled in the mix of the song that it almost disappoints you to hear the promise of this band’s sound being watered down by shoddy engineering. And that is thrown immediately into one of the worst songs the band has written. “Biko” not only lacks any passion, but there isn’t even a trace of real musicianship in this song. I think they might have looped the guitars. Gross.

Bloc Party, however, just continue to push on, angering me with each new track. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but whoever covered all of these songs in walls of noise, and I don’t mean precious ambience… I mean ridiculous noise, obviously had a few too many pints. The album is lacking a certain clarity, which is where it lost me. Skeletal song structures have promise, but the level of noise deems almost every moment of promise useless.

They’ve piled on loads of electronic samples into this album, which doesn’t really do them any favors. Their strength was always in the dueling guitar work, but once they strip that away, they don’t have much to offer us anymore. All the passion they once threw our way has been lost in new directions. I only wish they knew about the power of guitars, since they fail to use them often enough on this album.

By the end of the album, I just feel like I’ve been drained of every drop of social niceties. There isn’t a decent thing to say about this album at the end of the day. Some have indicated that the latter half offers a touch of redemption, but in all honesty, the latter half is equally as aggravating as the first half. Bloc Party have discarded their musicianship for an electronically fused album, and in the process they have discarded the majority of their adoring fans.

The GZA @ Emos – 9/3

We don’t often do a lot to cover our hip-hop brethren, but I figured that I would take this moment to pay homage to one of the only rappers that I ever really paid attention to when I was  younger. For me, hip-hop was Wu Tang, and the GZA was the glue.  This Wednesday night at Emo’s he’s going to play his classic Liquid Swords in its entirety.  Those into hip-hop won’t want to miss this night.

You can pick up your own set of tickets over at Ticketweb.

Stereolab – Chemical Chords

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When listening to Stereolab, my mind always travels back to that great moment when Caroline Fordis walks into the record store in High Fidelity to interview Rob Gordon.  That brief snippet of sound highlighted their electronic influences, as well as their abilities to capitalize on fans of pop music, despite using inaudible, or non-English–if you will–, lyrics.

Years later, I still hold onto that purest of moments when I realized that their music had somehow become easily accessible to the masses.  For me, this was not a knock, but a step in the direction you felt that they were going.  Popularity on the brink, they kind of suck back a bit, coming back from time to time for their adoring fans.

On this new record, their first LP since 2006, they come back with the same formula.  Their complex structure melding electronic pop gems with simple string arrangements and cloudy vocals is still completely intact, which may or may not be such a positive thing.  I’m not the ultimate collector of Stereolab LPs, but I swear that I’ve heard all these songs a million times over. There are absolutely some special moments, like the opener, “Neon Beanbag,” with its spectacular electric organ work, not to mention its use of English.  “Silver Sands” is equally as beautiful, with its marching beats and usage of horn work.

Still, one of the issues I’ve always had with the band is that they vocals are never really clear enough to capture your mind. This time around, they use a lot more English, but the vocals are almost secondary, seemingly meant to match every single one of their harmonies.  It works, but it leaves those searching for a connection to the lyrics without much to hold onto.

By the end of the album, the music sort of blends into the back of your brain, as the formula grows to be overly repetitive.  Some of the songs even appear as if they were mere copies of the previous tracks, leaving the listener with the feeling that they’ve been listening to a collection of demos for the same song over and over.

Ups and downs.  That is the secret to this entire album.  You go up with some highlights, then return to the Earth with a sense that its all been done before.  At the end of the day, it is undeniably a Stereolab record, but that is what you were expecting in the first place.  Those of you looking for that moment of twee pop will find places to reside, while others will just pass by on a brief vacation through Chemical Chords.

New Single from Land of Talk

Saddle Creek Records has offered up a new single from Montreal band Land of Talk, off their upcoming album Some Are Lakes due out October 7th. They will be touring in support of the new album this fall, but unfortunately won’t be making a stop in the Lone Star State. Enjoy the music this fine Friday afternoon.


Download: Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes [MP3]

The Black And White Years @ Stubbs

If you’re not gettin’ those dancing shoes on over at Beauty Bar for Car Stereo (Wars) on Saturday night (8/30), head over to the Stubbs indoor stage and catch another great local act, The Black and White Years.  Doors for the show open at 9pm followed by an opening set by Loxsly, also of Austin.  You can purchase tickets right this very second for only $6.


Download: The Black and White Years – Power to Change [MP3]

Car Stereo (Wars) @ Beauty Bar

The triumphant return of Car Stereo (Wars) to Austin! After being gone for quite some time, our favorite DJ/master of the mash up returns to Austin on Saturday night (8/30) at the Beauty Bar. Things are set to go off around 10pm. This finally gives me an excuse to post the greatest mash up ever created, “Ghostface Observatory”.


Download: Car Stereo Wars – Ghostface Observatory [MP3]

Power Pop Festival @ Mohawk/Beerland

All weekend long–that means tonight!–the cool cats from Transmission Entertainment will be bringing the glory of Power Pop to Austin, Texas.  Day shows will be going on over at Beerland, in case you have nothing to do; night shows will kick off at the Mohawk.  Personally, I am stoked to get to see the present-day lineup of Pointed Sticks play Friday night.  Other scheduled acts such as Ugly Beats, Boss Martians, Gentlemen Jesse and his Men and The Boys are included.  If you like your pop with a touch of power, hit up the Wild West Power Pop Festival!

Check out The Mohawk for complete list of bands. 

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