opinion byBENJI TAYLOR
“Unpigeonholeable”. It was a word used frequently – often by the band members themselves – to describe Bloc Party and their sound, back in 2005, when their star had begun its ascendancy. To some extent it was true: their debut Silent Alarm was a stunning mash-up of indie-rock and art-punk that fizzled with intelligence, striking just the right mix of post-punk seriousness and enticing melodic hooks. Though their influences were apparent, they often transcended them with their ability to leap from genre to genre – whether it was peddling the monstrous screeching indie of 2005’s "Helicopter" or the beat propelled synth-drenched fluorescence of 2007’s "Flux."
There was no denying their eclecticism, but as time went on that diversity seemed to evolve into indeterminacy and an inability to decide what they wanted to be as a band. It was no doubt confounded by lead singer Kele Okereke’s move to Berlin, by the band going on hiatus in 2009, and various extra-curricular projects. That indecisiveness was the root of the problem on 2012’s “comeback” album Four which, though it didn’t lack for several moments of inspired brilliance, felt at its worst like a stylistic mess. It was as if - returning to climb Everest – they’d found that they lacked the drive or ability to do so.
The Nextwave Sessions is their final release before what Okereke has described as an indefinite hiatus. It’s characterised by the same confused nature that marred much of their last LP - hurtling from one style to the other but mostly falling short of what they’ve previously achieved. "Ratchet" finds Bloc Party at their most energetic and playful, but musically it’s nestled somewhere between wannabe-dancefloor smash and pop-metal dud, with the lyrics “tell your bitch to get off my shit” and “watcha gonna show me bro” being representative of many clangers over the course of the EP.
They strip things down substantially on the ballad-esque "Obscene" and "Montreal," which find Okereke at his most introspective as his vocal drifts along amidst the tempered guitars, spectral bass and sparse percussion, but they lack the sparkle of earlier tracks like 2007's "SRXT." "French Exit" is a poor cousin to the nervy angular rock moments that littered Silent Alarm, whereas on "Children of the Future" it’s hard to take Okereke’s quasi-messianic shtick seriously when he was howling “whatcha gonna show me fam” on the opener.
If The Nextwave Sessions is Bloc Party’s farewell EP then it’s a pale frigid sunset in comparison to the streaming bright dawn of their debut. Then again – no star shines forever. [C-]