In recent years, the members of Bloc Party have spent their down time in various side projects. Frontman Kele Okereke’s extracurricular gigs have been the most high-profile—a dance-music-inspired solo album, The Boxer, as well as vocal cameos on songs by superstar DJs Tiësto and Martin Solveig—while guitarist Russell Lissack toured with Ash. But as it turns out, bassist Gordon Moakes’ spiky post-hardcore sidecar, Young Legionnaire, has the most influence on Bloc Party’s Four.
For starters, the album’s producer/mixer is Alex Newport, whose résumé also includes mixing Young Legionnaire’s Wreckonomics EP (along with work for At The Drive-In, Polysics, and Death Cab For Cutie). Newport’s ability to capture post-punk’s harsh angles and jolting energy is one of his biggest strengths, which makes him ideal to wrangle Four’s harsh, raw riffs and rumbling low end. In fact, Bloc Party’s energy and intensity on Four compare with its earliest EPs and first album, Silent Alarm; the scabrous guitars and rumbling low end of the snarling “We’re Not Good People,” thundering “Kettling,” and lightning storm “3x3” are downright vicious, while the dance-punk precision of “V.A.L.I.S.” and the corrugated riffs pogoing through “Team A” are ferocious. Even Four’s electronic elements—the laser-guided keyboards shooting through “Octopus,” for instance—are more forceful.
The aggression of these songs is only magnified by examining Four’s lyrics, which are preoccupied with violence, paranoia, and anarchy. When compared with this heft, the album’s slower moments feel jarring, which is a shame in the case of “Real Talk”: The romantic song is Okereke at his best, slipping in and out of a falsetto croon as he bravely confesses his love. Not as successful are “The Healing”—a reflective, comforting ballad that’s unfortunately repetitive—and “Truth,” whose Smiths-caliber longing and inner monologue can’t save it from being generic British indie-pop. Still, even these slight missteps can’t diminish the power of Four, which reinforces that Bloc Party continues to be one of the most innovative, vibrant bands to emerge in the last decade.