Silent Alarm was the first album I definitely bought with my own money. It was a disruptive album at the time. Indie darlings adored it, mainstream pop and rock fans looked on in bemusement as a ferocious fan base coalesced that could compete with Radiohead for most diehard. Everyone knew and liked singles – from memory Banquet, The Pioneers and Helicopter – but the album held depths in a genre that was just starting to see an insurgence ignited by the Strokes in the USA and the year after Silent Alarm, Arctic Monkeys would ignite the indie rock scene proper in the UK.
Challenging to the uninitiated, beautifully dense for the fans, Silent Alarm has matured over time into a timeless pinnacle of Alt and Indie Rock. It’s a big claim but having returned almost annually since its release, it still feels fresh and modern 16 years later.
This is no place for a track by track, we would be here a long time! One personal highlight for me is Positive Tension. The bass line has echoes of Manic’s Archives of Pain, this paired with the scattered drums and Kele’s intense delivery it builds… well… a positive tension. One that pays off in the exhilarating break down with the cymbals and circling guitars before the exhilarating shout/chant of “why d’you have to get so hysterical” repeated until “why’d you have to get… so fucking useless” brings euphoric release with the full band exploding into full force. I could write like this for most tracks.
Bloc Party eventually broke up as Kele went down a more electronic route. However they reformed a few years later with a new rhythm section and new album and last year marked the 15th anniversary with a series of album shows and a forthcoming live album.
I caught them at Alexandra Palace with a little trepidation a out how the new bassist and drummer could handle an album reliant on its rhythm section. My fears were unfounded. The drums lagged on one track but it proved every bit the nostalgia hit I needed. The real master stroke though? They played the album in reverse order. This created a gig long crescendo with built in encore. It was genius!
(Originally published to Instagram on 11 July 2019)