One Month Off
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It wasn't easy to get excited about Intimacy. Since 2007's A Weekend In The City, we were treated to Flux, a half-baked slice of electro-pop, and then came Intimacy's first single, Mercury, a jarring musical seizure of a record that is as clever as it's ridiculous. Bloc Party looked like they had finally surrendered to self-indulgence beyond rescue.
Thankfully, Intimacy sees the band at least try and temper such flights of fancy. Jacknife Lee, who produced the mixed bag of AWITC, and Paul Epworth, who master-minded the evergreen Silent Alarm, work in tandem this time round and the resulting fusion creates a nearly fabulous third album.
Ares is a firecracker of a start, a war anthem that is pure chaos, littered with clever lyrical asides and proof, if you needed it, that Bloc Party are the best in the business when it comes to bringing a track to a close. Then comes Mercury, leaving you punch-drunk and wondering if you'll ever hear a guitar again. You do, and it's worth the wait as both Halo and Trojan Horse, revive the glory days of Helicopter and Banquet.
As you'd expect, anxiety, desire, need and frustration flow through the fittingly titled album and are well represented by stilted, broken beats, crashing finales and precisely meddled and layered vocals. Such dynamics are most apparent on the trio of tracks towards the end of the record, One Month Off, Zephyrus and Better Than Heaven. While Zephyrus, which calls upon the services of the Exmoor singers of London, will be the track to name-drop, the heart of the album is One Month Off. Catchy, clever and surely the world premiere of a Bloc Party key change, what more could you ask for?
Like The Streets, Hot Chip and, dare we say, Coldplay, Bloc Party are a UK talent that continue to push the envelope stretching you simultaneously to points of ecstasy, the Hot Chip-esque Signs, and to points of agony, the please-make-it-stop Ion Square. Lyrically it treads a similar tightrope, faring a lot better than the crimes of AWITC, but not without its schoolboy blunders. ''At your funeral, I was so upset, so upset, so upset'', bleats Okereke on Signs. Skilfully put.
With huge attention to detail, Intimacy is a beautiful enigma, and, given its early delivery, a cracking surprise.