Even with an album as immediate and career-making as Bloc Party’s first LP, no band wants its music spread across the Internet pre-release. But it doesn’t matter; however tight security is on an album, it seems that if the public wants a record bad enough, there is always someone who is willing to give it to them (who are these people?). Sometimes, as with Eminem’s Encore last year, disappointed fans can kill the pre-release hype by revealing the album’s weaknesses. But often an album can receive the kind of glowing word of mouth that raises anticipation to a boiling point.
Leaked more than four months ago, Silent Alarm has been steadily generating massive amounts of buzz for achieving that rare feat: a debut full-length that lives up to the hype. After last year’s excellent self-titled EP (which collected Bloc Party’s singles up to that point) and after releasing a few more import releases and appetite-whetting singles, Bloc Party has created a quintessentially British rock ‘n’ roll album. Perhaps the best rock album to come out of England since the Libertines’ debut, it’s bound to be one of 2005’s best.
Bloc Party has often worn its influences on its sleeve, so it’s refreshing to see the band establish its own voice in the longer format. Only two songs have survived from their earlier release: their unsurpassed peak, “Banquet,” and the New Order-ish “She’s Hearing Voices,” which sees some slight vocal adjustments that make the song stronger. “Banquet,” the best single of last year, still stands out, firing up the headphones with a fantastic vocal performance from lead singer Kele Okereke.
But there’s plenty more to like here, including recent single “Helicopters,” which brings more jumping Gang of Four-like guitars mixed with political edge. Most of the album is less straight-out dance-rock. “Positive Tension” is a synth-laden, beat-driven track that builds to a peak guitar solo, with some excellent vocals along the way (“Something glorious is about to happen!”). Two of the more beautiful songs are opener “Like Eating Glass” and what may be the breakthrough ballad come springtime, “This Modern Love.” Using the switching-channels trick on the vocals and some weaving guitars, the song finishes in a flourish of melodic vocal backing and the refrain: “This modern love breaks me. This modern love wastes me.” It kills me every time.
The album could have stood another upbeat track in the style of “Banquet” or “Helicopters” near its end, where despite valiant efforts from the brilliant “Little Thoughts” (which Vice has thankfully included on the U.S. release) and “Luno” things get a little more new-wave and a little less post-punk. This minor complaint prevents me from throwing myself in front of a train over fear there will never be another album as good as this, but everything else about Silent Alarm leads me to believe the hype got it right this time.
The next big leak comes and goes, but Silent Alarm is an album worth purchasing and a purchase worth cherishing.