The British indie quintet Bloc Party returns with its new release Weekend in the City, a follow-up to its 2005 album Silent Alarm. This sophomore effort shows maturation from the band, with improved songwriting and a new influence to their sound.
Weekend in the City is an album about living life in the city – casual sex, waiting for the train and drug-fueled nights. Yet the lyrics reveal a restless and angry yearning for something different, which gives the album depth.
The band has departed from the sound that made it famous in Silent Alarm. It still uses traces of drum and bass, but includes some new melodies.
Producer Jacknife Lee – who has also worked with Snow Patrol and received a Grammy for his work with U2 – worked with the band. A Rolling Stone article in May 2006 listed Philip Glass and Bjork’s Medulla album as influences, which is apparent on the tracks “Hunting for Witches,” “The Prayer” and “Where is Home?”
The album starts off strong with “Song for Clay (Disappear Here),” beginning with Kele Okereke slowly singing and guitarist Russell Lissack softly strumming in the background for a minute before the entire band begins to play. This song also introduces the theme of the album, hinting at the restlessness of living in the city, with Okereke singing, “East London is a vampire / It sucks the joy right out of me.”
The next four tracks – “Hunting for Witches,” “Waiting for the 7:18,” “The Prayer” and “Uniform” – make up the better part of the album. These songs not only have some of the best beats, but also some of the most engaging lyrics of the album.
The tracks showcase Okereke’s voice with minimal music behind it, emphasizing the lyrics. As the songs progress, more elements are added that cause each song to end in a completely different way than it started.
“Hunting for Witches” easily has the most politically motivated lyrics, specifically citing the terrorist attacks that occurred in London. “The newscaster says the enemy’s among us / As bombs explode on the 30 bus / Kill your middle class indecision / Now is not the time for a liberal thought.”
“Uniform” is the most bitter song on the album, displaying a sense of boredom with pop culture and expressing a disdain for the lack of substance. The song is basically a five-minute rant on everything from MTV – “The Internet will keep us together / MTV taught me how to sulk and love nothing / And how to grow my hair long” – to a generally jaded viewpoint on the mundane – “We’re finding it hard to be alone / We’re finding it hard to break the mold / We’re finding it hard to excite myself / We have nothing at all to say.”
The track finishes with Okereke simply saying, “There was a sense of disappointment as we sped away / All the young people looked the same.”
While the majority of the tracks are angry and bitter, the last three tracks on the album seem almost too saccharine in contrast. “I Still Remember” and “Sunday” could easily pass as modern versions of The Cure’s “Just like Heaven.” While these tracks are good staple ballads, they come off as fluffy, filler songs in comparison to the analytical and harsh tracks that precede them.
Overall, the album shows growth from the band, as it left behind the sound it had in Silent Alarm. The dance tracks that made the band famous, “Helicopter” and “Banquet,” are absent from this album and instead replaced with politically minded lyrics and eclectically influenced sounds.
Weekend in the City proves to be a more mature-sounding album, while still keeping the distinct edge that gave the band its original success.