Okay, let’s get this out of the way [big breath]: Gang of Four, Joy Division, New Order, Blur, Wire, the Clash, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, the Fall. Okay. I feel better.
There may have been a time when it wasn’t necessary to define a band by its influences. I can’t recall it, though, and we are now in full reference-ready mode. Bloc Party comes from London bearing gifts (and yes, that list is in order of relevance). The quartet’s eponymous debut EP, actually a combination of their first two single releases — She’s Hearing Voices and Banquet/Staying Fat — is six songs of swellness.
Don’t get your hopes up with “Banquet.” The opener is so good — it’s so good — that you might expect to be equally impressed with the rest. Russell Lissack’s guitars skipping around all Gang of Four-like in full dance-punk mode, Kele Okereke’s vocals hinted with a Damon Albarn-ish style, the song is one of the best this year. The dance remix that’s included, although it’s excellent, is superfluous; there’s plenty to dance to already.
“Staying Fat” works with a good hook and great back-and-forth vocals, and a vibrating guitar that sends the song just over the two-minute mark does its job well. “She’s Hearing Voice” is Bloc Party’s big Joy Division moment, but it isn’t depression you’re feeling, and if Bloc Party can make you move to this kind of song, imagine what direction they’re headed in for their full-length. “The Answer” even manages to pull off vocals through a bull horn without sounding contrived.
Despite the need to describe Bloc Party by invoking the most commonly referenced bands of the past few years, they remarkably don’t sound like anything else around right now. Like Franz Ferdinand, who they have toured with, and the Strokes, who they should supplant, their sheer pop writing ability supercedes any notion of being derivative. You can deconstruct this music all you want, but when you’re listening to it, it really doesn’t matter.
No one, however, bases their career on five songs (and one remix), so the band will have to prove itself for real next time. As long as they give us a full album of new stuff as good as what’s on this EP, I’ll be happy. They could even throw in “Banquet” again if they want. In fact, they could put “Banquet” on every album they ever make.