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bloc party interview
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Welcome to the party.There are two ways for artists to go in dark times. They can produce work that’s an explosion of colour and excitement, a reaction against the surrounding atmosphere of gloom. Or - and this is almost more fun - they can reflect the prevailing mood of monochrome misery they see around them. London quartet Bloc Party might deal with the personal in their lyrics, but together with contemporaries and touring partners Interpol, their chill post-punk-influenced music is perfect for these uncertain and paranoid times.
The floe-slow Compliments generates a pre-internet environment of “nicotine and bacteria”, Price Of Gas and Like Eating Glass (“It‘s so cold in this house”) hint at the gloom of three-day weeks and power cuts, while the spiky Positive Tension (“a song about boredom and the dangers of boredom, how boredom can lead you into dark places,” according to bassist Gordon Moakes) is full of thwarted bile and unfulfilled brooding.
Their name - not to mention their music - might have been inspired by Joy Division, but Bloc Party (Moakes, singer Kele Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack and drummer Matt Tong) have a lot to be cheerful about at the moment, not least the constant references to the “new Franz Ferdinand”. After a string of attention-grabbing singles, their fine and atmospheric debut album, Silent Alarm, was recorded in Copenhagen with producer Paul Epworth, a process that involved finishing 15 songs in one month.
Yet there was some relaxation, as Moakes admits from backstage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, shouting over the rumble of The Futureheads’ soundcheck. When they weren’t obsessing over Grand Theft Auto, as all bands must, they explored the vast collection of obscure vinyl amassed by the studio’s owner. “Like, a record by The Sound, who were mooted as a new Joy Division in 1980 and never really amounted to much. There was some really bad 80s rap, too - there was a Vanilla Ice live album.”
Anyone who implies Bloc Party are hung up on the 80s, however, will get short shrift from Gordon. “We just grew up in that pre-Britpop era. When I was getting into music Suede were just about to break, and I was always quite into Riot Grrls. I was into Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill, I have this real soft spot for Wiija Records. It didn’t take long for me personally to go from that to listening to Hole and those Olympia bands - Nirvana, Sebadoh, Pavement. We’ve always been really inclusive when it comes to things like that. The 80s is just an element of stuff.”
As befits a thoroughly modern record, Silent Alarm doesn’t demand that you wear a long grey overcoat or black eyeliner. But when Gordon says, “We wear our hearts on our sleeves,” that’s a style statement worth following.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm, released 14 February 05 on Wichita.
Interpol - Antics
“It's an amazing album. We were listening to it a lot before we went on tour with them in Europe, and it's certainly been in our lives a lot of the past three months.”
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