Few debut albums from this millenium have been as impactful as ‘Silent Alarm’ by Bloc Party. The record has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. In the UK alone, it was certified gold within 24 hours of its release and is currently certified Platinum. Ahead of Bloc Party appearing at Wasteland to perform ‘Silent Alarm’ in its entirety, GNE looks back on the seminal record track by track. Read on to fall in love with it all over again…
1.Like Eating Glass
As far as album openers go, ‘Like Eating Glass’ was the perfect statement of intent from Bloc Party on ‘Silent Alarm’. Its fast tempo and jagged guitars are characteristic of the rest of the record. It was inspired by a remix of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ by The Smiths.
‘Helicopter’ is one of Bloc Party’s biggest hits to date. The visceral track is one of the most guitar heavy offerings on ‘Silent Alarm’. It has been extensively used in pop culture on games such as ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘FIFA 06’ as well as films including ‘Yes Man’ and ‘Charlie St Cloud’.
Although many have claimed that the song is about American politics at the time of release, frontman Kele Okereke refuted these claims stating “It’s a common misconception that “Helicopter” is about President Bush. It’s kinda patronizing.” While the meaning of the song is ambiguous, it’s popularity is undeniable.
3. Positive Tension
According to frontman Kele Okereke, ‘Positive Tension’ is one of the songs that best realises Bloc Party’s objective for ‘Silent Alarm’. In a 2005 interview with The Independent, frontman Kele Okereke stated
“There is a real sense of space and atmosphere that you will hear in the techno-house style [but] you will not hear in a three-minute guitar pop song… It is a very difficult thing to try to put the two together without it sounding lame. We are excited by it. The two songs ‘Positive Tension’ and ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ are examples of what we are trying to do.”
It’s not to imagine a world without ‘Banquet’, one of Bloc Party’s most iconic tracks to date. Although surprisingly it nearly didn’t see the light of day. One of the members of the band initially claimed it sounded too similar to ‘Girls And Boys’ by Blur. The band’s management also weren’t overly keen on it to begin with.
Fortunately the track, which is often attributed as the band’s North American breakthrough single, was released and has been listed in ‘best track’ lists by outlets such as NME and Triple J.
5. Blue Light
In an album filled with forceful energy, ‘Blue Light’ offers a moment of tender respite. That’s not to say that it sounds lethargic in comparison to the rest of the record. ‘Blue Light’ still contains explosive percussion, razor sharp guitars and passionate delivery from Okereke. However the song takes on a dreamier feel, balancing out the album’s more frenetic moments.
6. She’s Hearing Voices
If the jarring percussion and hard to discern lyrics on ‘She’s Hearing Voices; leave you feeling a bit ill at ease then you’re not alone. As you may be able to guess from the title, this particular number is about a paranoid schizophrenic friend of Okereke’s.
7. This Modern Love
‘This Modern Love’ is the most balladesque track of ‘Silent Alarm’. It encapsulates the rush of different emotions felt when entering a new relationship. This roller-coaster of anxiety, frustration and affection that bubbles to the surface in the space of four and a half minutes certainly sums up modern love
Pioneers was once described by NME as being “mouth-dryingly intense”. This track has an observational tone. The track echos the aspirations of many young people reflecting on the state of the world and hoping to make it better in the future.
9. Price Of Gas
‘Price of Gas’ seems to be one of the more politically charged tracks on ‘Silent Alarm’. Of the track Okereke explained to pitchfork that like the previous track it is more observational then preachy. “I’m taking a look at people’s lives. It has to be more than just telling people “Don’t vote for Bush.” Leave people space to make their own conclusions.”
10. So Here We Are
‘So Here We Are’ is a prime example of how Bloc party can evoke deep emotions even with sparse instrumentation and few lyrics. Stylus magazine stated in 2005 that the track “deliberately sets out to evoke the rush of coming up on ecstasy, and manages to do so more effectively than almost anything else has done in probably five years.”
‘Luno’ is a track about seeing negative changes in a friend. Like many ‘Silent Alarm’ tracks, there is a sense of tension paired with high energy generated through the instrumentation.
‘Plans’ the penultimate track on the album stands out thanks to it incorporating more synth use than other songs on the album. The lyric’ Stop being so laissez-faire / We’re all scared of the future’ cautions people against apathy.
‘Compliments’ is a sonic journey of two halves with an extended silence in between. The full track is a mighty thirteen minutes long. The first part of the track is a reverb soaked slow burner with minimalist leanings that seethes. Then comes the silence. The pause, starting from roughly four and a half minutes in feels like an eternity. However when the second part of the song finally emerges roughly ten minutes in. The instrumental, with a repeated piano refrain brings the album to a pleasing and surprisingly peaceful conclusion.
It goes without saying ‘Silent Alarm’ is a very special album especially for those who were lucky enough to experience the album being released as they came of age. Whether you want to re-live those days or are a new Bloc party Fan why not catch the band at Wasteland, Newcastle This Year? The band perform at Spillers Wharf on 12th July 2019 alongside Circa Waves, Mystery Jets and Imogen.
For a memento that will last forever, a number of special edition ‘Silent Alarm Live’ packages are available from Bloc Party’s official website. Get exclusive items including the record as you’ve never heard it before on vinyl, cd or as a digital download along with prints and t-shirts. Items start from as little as £6.99 for an exclusive digital download of tthe album.
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