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Dan Baker

CD of The Week

Week of 5/02/22

    Bloc Party - Alpha Games (BMG)

    Recapturing the sound and energy of times past is never an easy task, but it is the one Bloc Party set for themselves with their sixth studio album Alpha Games. Coming off a tour that saw them playing their debut Silent Alarm in its entirety, the experience left an impression on singer/guitarist/songwriter Kele Okereke. The energy felt performing those songs live informed the songwriting on Alpha Games. The result is a record that lacks a certain cohesion as the direction is marred and the songs a little uneven. Despite it all, Bloc Party’s catchy rhythms and dance-pop/post-punk influence still remain.

    The trio of songs that start the album is some of the best Alpha Games has to offer. “Day Drinker” has a modern sound that features some great interplay between the band members. Okereke’s vocals have never sounded better and are complemented by some athletic guitar playing (love those arpeggios) and drumbeats. The energy from that tune carries right into the next one “Traps.” Set as the lead single for the album, its raucous wall-of-sound assault feels equal parts Blondie and The Libertines. The adrenaline is then dialed back in “You Should Know the Truth.” A more pop-oriented sound is applied to great success here and the opening guitar lick is one that will stick with you.

    The rest of the album then sees its share of hits and misses. A good chunk of the middle continues the electronic music trend featured heavily on their previous album Hymns. Songs like “The Girls Are Fighting” “Sex Magik” and “Rough Justice” carry on that influence and are experimental at best and filler at worst.

    Thankfully, the album does end on the dual high notes of “...If We Get Caught” and “The Peace Offering.” The former is a spacy pop tune about forbidden love and the dangerous lengths one can travel to keep those feelings alive, and the latter retains that dazed sound but conjures up much darker emotions. Okereke dramatic spoken word performance is complemented by the tightness of the band as the song reaches its climax.

    Not without its ups and downs, Alpha Games is an interesting addition to Bloc Party’s discography. When it hits, the record stands as a testament to the band’s singular ability to craft catchy songs that traverse a wide range of influences. And with its misses, it’s a nice reminder that discovery still requires experimentation.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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