Everybody has ‘that band’ that he or she feels strongly protective of and provided a kind of soundtrack to late teens early twenties. Or maybe that is just me or the audiophiles I was friends with.
The release of Bloc Party’s EP Nextwave Sessions causes me to reflect on the storied brief career of an English export that never really became as big as promoters had hoped and supporters feared.
The relationship between enigmatic front man Kele Okereke and his fellow band mates appears to have begun to decompose as soon as their debut album, Silent Alarm, was released. Either because of this or in spite of it, the band produced an impressive amount of material in a relatively short time. In between their debut and their follow-up, “A Weekend in the City”, the band released several EP’s of new material. After AWITC, a second set of B sides were released that in my opinion is almost better than the A side material.
Intimacy, the third record, showed a maturity and expansion into electronica that explored the same themes as both previous albums, but utilized a whole new set of tools to craft their message.
After Intimacy, the band went their separate ways, with Okereke recording his own electronica/hip-hop album and the other band members picking up side projects they had put aside while in Bloc Party.
Last year, Four, a tour divorce, was released. Okereke reportedly said that after Four it was all over, and that he had nothing left to give.
Not so, it appears. The Nextwave Sessions are a kind of double-down by Okereke and his band mates; as if to say, ‘no, this time we’re serious.”
This time I truly do think the band will never get back together, and while they call it an ‘indefinite hiatus’, I think the word divorce better describes the emotions behind the parting. Not a divorce in the modern context in America, but a Galsworthy-style breaking of a relationship between people who woke up and realize they can’t talk to each other anymore. It is an especially English divorce.
The final lyrics of the final track, “Children of the future,” are hopeful and mournful at the same time, a gift Okereke has used his whole career.
“be all that you can be/ be all that we never were/ succeed where we failed.”
Bloc Party’s last album is a gift to me personally. Whenever I had a truly existential moment (I am aware how pretentious that sounds), it was always their music in the background. From riding the tube in Brixton and hearing ‘This Modern Love’, to walking in East Berlin with Kreuzberg in my headphones, the band has been a gift.