A review of Bloc Party's sixth studio album - a story of anger, energy and redemption.
Six years is a long period to reflect between albums and such time has clearly been a healer. With Alpha Games, Bloc Party have offered us their most focused and coherent record in years. With all four members now contributing to the band’s sound, there’s a welcomed freshness and energy to reinvigorate any setting in staleness. “It was fun writing,” admits Kele Okereke, “…and seeing what they (Louise and Justin) were capable of seeing; the new shapes and new sounds they could make”.
Six albums in and almost two decades leading the band, frontman Kele Okereke was keen to take the listener on a “journey” on new album Alpha Games. Set to a backdrop of political upheaval, scandal and coronavirus frustrations, their latest has been several years in the making – a new energised focus inspired by their 2018/19 Silent Alarm anniversary tour.
Much of the success comes from the simmering darkness that runs throughout Alpha Games. Opener ‘Day Drinker’ boldly tells the tale of a brother’s inebriated desperation and suspicion, the final minute breaking down into a fantastic heavier riffed finale and it’s quickly followed by the ferocious swagger of first previous single ‘Traps’. ‘The Girls Are Fighting’ is late-night, after-midnight sleaze personified (“there’s blood on the dance floor, extensions on the bar / I blame the Jagermeister and vodka lemonade”), an ominous and uneasy edge allowing for a particular mid-point album highlight.
‘Callum Is A Snake’ meanders between quirky and lyrical cringe (“I had a lot of time for you / but now you’ve got me in the street looking like a MUG / And that’s not the look I’m going for”). Once you get over the latter, it’s a snappy 2-minute slice of indie-pop fun. ‘Sex Magik’ has them at their most sexy and tender, the repeated refrain of “earth, earth, air, air, fire, fire, water, water” adding a luscious richness to the song.
Closer ‘The Peace Offering’ is a dense and thoughtful end, full of acceptance and vindication, a man coming to question and compromise his cynicism. With Kele’s spoken vocal style channelling that of Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw, the song reaches a breath-taking, claustrophobic demise that’ll have you enthralled until its dying seconds.
Speaking about the frustrations of making their sixth studio album, Kele would admit that “there were lots of points during the making of this record where we weren’t sure if it was going to get made at all”. Such feelings of cynicism and anger eke out throughout this record, the energetic anguish providing the band a new lease of life.
‘Alpha Games’ is an excellent return, far more accessible and focused than many of their previous efforts. Bloc Party are simply bolder and punchier than ever, a band to be taken as a serious force again. And who doesn’t love a good redemption story?