Bloc Party's Alpha Games shows how indie rock is done
English rock band Bloc Party released their new record, Alpha Games, on Friday. But with their sixth studio album, do the rockers still have what it takes to keep indie rock alive?
Bloc Party's signature raw energy is definitely present on their new effort, but they have grown musically from where they started – and aren't afraid to experiment.
My introduction to Bloc Party was playing the song Helicopter on Guitar Hero III. I have fond and fuzzy college memories of getting piss drunk with friends and mashing those colored buttons into the wee hours of the morning. Sure, it was no Through the Fire and Flames in terms of gameplay difficulty, but as a musician, the energy and in-your-face punk aesthetic of Bloc Party made the tune one of my favorite songs to play – and to listen to off the gaming console.
It led me to the group's first studio album Silent Alarm – on which Helicopter is the second track – and I was hooked.
I always gravitated towards Bloc Party's lead singer, Kele Okereke, as a Black musician myself who is also dredded and plays guitar within genres that tend to be white dominated.
His energy and undeniable songwriting abilities are engaging and even a bit enigmatic. His voice has that punk rock angst, yet can be soothing and melodic – or even haunting at times.
As I dove into the band's latest record, Kele's vocals led the way to guitar hooks that hit harder than Mike Tyson on an airplane.
And the tunes took off from there.
Alpha Games: Bloc Party brings the energy, versatility, and creativity
Alpha Games sounds like it could be the band's second record and a follow-up to Silent Alarm.
Traps is a standout track, and as the second song on the new record, sets a strong tone for what's to come. It's heavy, yet catchy, and listeners are left wanting more.
The album's next song, You Should Know the Truth, begins the dive into indie rock and demonstrates Bloc Party's versatility. One moment, you want to head bang and mosh to their songs, and the next, you feel like dancing around your living room.
It's this push and pull that makes Alpha Games a solid record. Bloc Party plays with different genres in a way that doesn't feel forced, but comes off naturally and impressively executed.
Songs like The Girls Are Fighting have more of a pop feel, with chanting hooks and shameless lyrical repetition. The track Callum Is a Snake has a spoken word vibe to its vocals, while Rough Justice is stylistically all over the place in the most fun way possible.
Sex Magik and By Any Means Necessary incorporate dance music elements and electronic instruments, and although they aren't the album's best offerings, it's clear that inherent talent went into crafting them.
The album's guitar work is truly amazing, especially in the song In Situ – which has a bridge with harmonizing guitars and a solo towards the end that seems to explode through the speakers. And Kele's vocals throughout have that range of emotion that fans have come to expect from a Bloc Party record.
Alpha Games absolutely succeeds in adding another stellar record to Bloc Party's discography, and continues the band's journey through the progression of their sound. I found myself becoming a fan all over again.
If they happen to make another Guitar Hero game and put a track like Traps on it, you'll find me blissfully drunk at three in the morning, trying like hell to master it on expert mode.
Cover photo: Instagram/thisisblocparty