Remembering a classic: Bloc Party 'Silent Alarm'

We throwback to Bloc Party's pile-driver of a debut album 'Silent Alarm'.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 14th Dec 2018

Image: Bloc Party

After this year delivering a handful of live shows where their magnificent debut was played out in full,it's the turn of Bloc Party's Silent Alarm to come under the microscope as we remind ourselves of the true excellence of one of indie's most exquisite records.

Silent Alarm gave Bloc Party their authenticity, albeit in a completely different musical climate to the one currently riddled with pop/indie crossovers signed to juggernaut labels. Things just feel different now.

Bloc Party shunned the advances of mega imprint Parlophone in favour of signing to indie label Wichita. They cited freedom of artistic expression for the move. It propelled Wichita slap bang into a ocean-sized current; as a result their impact on the charts spilled well over a year.

When the band eventually split and Kele went on to do his own thing, rumours surfaced that they were to reunite without him. Nothing came of it. That'd be ludicrous.

The immediacy of Kele's vocal and his entwining rhyming guitar was the beating heart of the band, but so was Lissack's sharp-shooting riffs and the mind-blowing drumming of Matt Tong that bled into the telepathic bass playing of Gordan Moakes. 

It was a synergy that unearthed a solid run of blistering hits. The album was intense, straight up in your face, frenetic and for the most part dazzling. It often stumbled from a single instrumental element and ended as a flaming meteorite propelled by sonic boom riffs and hyper-speed rhythm sections.

Silent Alarm speculatively translated as a warning to the doom-sodden point the world is at now. There was a distinct political and social undertone covering fragmented relationships, war, and disaster mired beneath the genre defying euphoria.

From the get-go the infectious pitch-shifting bassline of 'Like Eating Glass' made a statement of intent. 'Helicopter' landed with equal muscle; the interchanging guitars exhibited the band at the apex of their capabilities as they reaped through the track like enraged wildfire.

Moakes brilliance slipped under the radar for the most part. 'Positive Tension' and 'Price Of Gas' tore the meat from a simple but ultimately effective groove; the imposing chorus of 'Banquet' swelled upon an avalanche of rumbling bass and each skin-drubbing drum beat was massaged to perfection from his four-stringed prowess.

Matt Tong's percussive mastering lands particularly en-masse with the opening drum beat of 'She's Hearing Voices'. It's probably the most atypical of their song arrangements. Layers build upon layers, guitars rapidly progress from an opening pulse and Kele sprinkles the dust and sparks the glass rim with a myriad of vocal chanting and split vocals.   

Every song from the record could have been compacted into a single, it was that good. It was like it under estimated the power of its swinging fist, operating in a world where 14 tracks shouldn't pass you by in a capacity disproportionate to the worldly speed of sound.

Silent Alarm was a mere mortal of a debut album that will forever define Bloc Party - even on the eve of a brand new dawn for the reformed band.


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