Bloc Party‘s ‘A Weekend In The City’ just turned ten years old and – in all honesty – I can hardly believe it. Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that “time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind”: nothing could be truer. Apart from the quote, I’m looking for some decent ideas to put together, while I stare at a black page. It’s not easy to tell you why Bloc Party‘s sophomore album has been so important to me. Or why I wish I could just rollback to 2007 and re-start from there.
Bloc Party were a sort of cult, back then. The band was riding the wave of an electro-indie bubble, putting down roots on a production that used to combine post-punk vibes with chemical dancefloor riffs. All in the same room, like they were partying together. The formula eventually won over thousands of fans when the critically acclaimed debut ‘Silent Alarm’ was released. ‘A Weekend In The City’ was a slightly different matter, softer in terms of atmospheres, maybe less dynamic, yet still willing to walk the listener through the anxiety and frustration of a young man in a city like London. More or less looking for some balance and someone (or something) to settle down with.
I have clear memories of myself, driving my car towards a place that time had forgotten. I was studying at Uni, and I had to travel long distances to get to a tiny yet enchanting village in the heart of Italy, just on top of a hill, five minutes from the Adriatic coast. I was 20 and I felt as though I had no clues whatsoever of what to do with my life. I used to listen to this record in “repeat” mode for hours, desperately looking for an answer, while I was crossing my homeland.
I used to write for a webzine, at the time. “Five years of career and Kele Okereke and friend are back as grown-ups. – I started my review – They seem to be handling the pressure pretty well and despite a less acid, less aggressive sound, they’re still there, ready to make another step forward”. ‘A Weekend In The City’ sounded like a cool record to me, although it was not that well-received by the relevant press nor by a part of their fan-base who were expecting a follow up perhaps more aligned to ‘Silent Alarm’.
Ten years later, I can still see a series of gems embedded in this LP: the initial schizophrenia of ‘Song For Clay (Disappear Here)’, not to mention ‘Waiting For The 7:18’. Kele writes of solitude. He sings of the desolated industrial landscapes and about the decadent human mind. Guitar and drum riffs are astringent, creating that indietronic soundscape that had already become a trademark for the band. ‘The Prayer’, again, is another example of a track that sounds still young, still alive and powerful as I remember it to be a decade ago. I can feel a pang of nostalgia every time I listen to some snippets of it in the middle of a night in a club.
There’s a desperate need of love, among the 12 tracks of this full-length. Kele longs for that ideal love he might have touched but never really found. He elegantly describes sexual encounters in ‘Kreuzberg’, then he depicts the melancholy of a Sunday morning when the bitter taste in your mouth blends with a solitary awakening (‘Sunday’).
There’s a song I feel mostly related to, and that’s ‘On’. Kele sings: “I am on / Switched on / A sudden clearness, a clarity / Hidden away, in every locked toilet / I’ve been waiting for you in the Joiners Arms / I know your name / I know your name / I’ve danced with you / We’re all friends here”. That place, The Joiners Arms, was a cool nightclub on Hackney Road, on the edge of Shoreditch. It was shut down in January 2015 to make space for new housing. It was the first place I went to, on a cold Friday night, as soon as I moved to London. No friends, not a single known face to talk to, that was where it all started. That venue will always remain in my heart and it’s quite inevitable for me to love this track even more, as it was written for myself too.
‘A Weekend In The City’ would have deserved some more consideration. I have the feeling Bloc Party went down a different road when writing the follow up to ‘Silent Alarm’, softening up their own sound and therefore losing their inner beauty at people’s eyes. As if they had gone out of fashion for the cool (indie) kids of the time. Not to mention the internal struggle the band was actually starting to experience, with drummer Matt Tong due to leave the group quite soon.
What I know, however, is that this album represents a brilliant chapter of that indie bubble of the mid-2000s. It’s part of a batch of releases that might not have reached the media spotlight as they were expected to, but still, have a special place in people’s hearts.
Wichita Recordings | 2007
Tracklist & Stream