Bloc Party – Silent Alarm Live (Album Review)

2005 was a strong year for new indie-alternative music. Arctic Monkeys tore onto the scene with ‘I Bet You Look Good…’ towards the end of the year, and bands like Hard-Fi, Maximo Park, The Subways and Bloc Party shared their debut full-length albums.

Part of the reason why many of these artists made an impact with their work was because it strongly reflected the cultural zeitgeist and spoke to something in a young adult audience, owing in no small part to many of the artists being in this age range at the time. With these kinds of releases, the music tends to go one of two ways: it either stands the test of time, or it is so ingrained into a particular moment that it ages rapidly.

14 years later, Bloc Party has revisited its well-regarded debut to see which holds true for it. The band embarked on a tour to play its Silent Alarm album in full, with one night in Brussels captured in the Silent Alarm Live album. And despite the intervening years and the inherent limitations of capturing a live experience in an audio recording, the release shows that Bloc Party’s debut is every bit as captivating and significant as it was in 2005, and the band itself still puts every ounce of energy and passion into these older songs.

Even as somebody who never got into Bloc Party around the time of the album’s release and without sentimental attachment to it, there is something magical about the atmosphere of each track. Somewhere between Kele Okereke’s vocalwork and the smooth drum rhythms that Louise Bartle delivers magnificently, something happens that provides the ultimate feeling of escapism from the stresses and successes of life, and the recording captures a feeling that often is the most challenging with live recordings. It truly feels like you’re there.

This is most evident in tracks like ‘The Price of Gasoline’, ‘So Here We Are’ and ‘Compliments’, where the engulfing rhythms bring you into what feels like an intimate moment. It’s in these moments that you’re able to appreciate the craftmanship and maturity that Bloc Party brings to its music, with every syllable soaked in sentiment and meaning, and every note and nuanced beat feeling calculated and deliberate.

With this atmosphere making the entire album a mesmerising listen, it offsets one of the potential problems with the album, which is that the more energetic tracks are front-loaded. Because the album follows the original track-by-track structure of the album, the tracks that proved to be the stand out hits, ‘Helicopter’, ‘Positive Tension’ and ‘Banquet’, appear as the second, third and fourth tracks respectively. Even though the band seemingly performed the album in reverse order live so that these songs served as the euphoric climax to the evening, the flow as recorded still feels gloriously right. It is almost as if, with the shackles of the big hits taken off early, it gives the other tracks room to emphasise their merits.

As a live album, it’s difficult to choose one or two tracks that truly stand out, because to cherry-pick moments would be to do a disservice to Bloc Party. Instead, this is an album to be blasted loud from start to finish, to really capture a moment in time where one of the strongest indie acts of the 21st century so far celebrate the monumental release that started it all.

Even in a different musical climate, where albums are seldom played through in full, Bloc Party has managed to create an experience that will keep you glued throughout.

Silent Alarm Live is available to stream — but only in its entirety — on Spotify.

4/5

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