A Weekend in The City: A look into their overlooked sophomore effort
by Aramide Olorunyomi
I’d like to think that when you or any other music fan looks back at the great new bands of the early 21st century, mention would be made of London multi-racial combo Bloc Party. And why shouldn't we? Anyone who's been lucky enough to listen to their 2005 record Silent Alarm (made two years after they formed) would see where the acclaim stemmed from. Even if you think that many indie rock records are a dime a dozen, it would still be criminal to overlook much of the dynamic qualities of that album. With that record, there was no shortage of passionate delivery, whether it came from Kele Okereke or Russell Lissack's dueling guitar parts, Gordon Moakes’ subtle, yet ever present bass playing, or Matt Tong's constant on-point percussion, and on top of all that, with Kele's heart-on-his-sleeves lyrics and vocal commitment, you geo an album that is not only a great listen but also one that rewards its listeners with repeated listens.
But, all that said, despite the general acclaim that Silent Alarm deserve. I will still argue that the band’s high point is their 2007 follow-up album A Weekend In The City, which is a bit of an interesting subject. At the time it was given slightly positive reviews and was considered a bit of an inferior follow-up, mainly due to the choice of departing from the punk-funk rhythms that made Silent Alarm such a hit and instead choosing to go for a more isolated electronic vibe. Where Silent Alarm was more abstract in terms of lyrical message, A Weekend in The City lays it all on the line. Whether the subject pertains to racism, isolationism, lost love, and problems with identity in the 21st century, A Weekend In the City is an album that should be remembered for years to come.
The record starts with the tune “Song for Clay (Disappear Here).” The song does a good job in showcasing the somber mood that will be ever present during the entire record. You can tell this record is not going to be uplifting when the opening line in the song is "I am trying to be heroic, as all around me history sinks." The entire song plays as a long-lost story written by Bret Easton Ellis. It aligns itself with marketing youth culture and how the constant hedonism of club life and drug use seems like a slow suicide. Hence the subtitle is “Disappear Here.” As far as opening tracks go, you cannot ask for a stronger dance song. It's a frontal attack. It lets you know that this weekend in the city is troubling at the very least.
It is on “Hunting For Witches,” the album’s second song, that the strength of this album is really shown. In this song, we have the album's pulsating electronic drive, mixed in with Russell’s on-edge guitar playing. But what truly sells the song is Kele's delivery. In singing from the point of view of an openly xenophobic man whom seems to be looking forward to shooting any immigrant that comes in his path, Kele shows what makes up much of 21st century paranoia on safety and terrorism and how unfortunately, the scapegoats in this fear are immigrants. The lyrics oddly read like a comment section on a FOX News webpage, with lines such as "the newscasters says the enemy is among us, as bombs explode on the 30 buses, kill your middle class indecision now is not the time for liberal thought".
The third song on the album "Waiting for the 7:18" is an interesting foray into nostalgia for times. Unlike the previous two songs, it’s wistful and joyous, yet it seems to hide a quiet sadness of not knowing whether or not those past moments were fully appreciated and whether or not the future will ever be as great as the past could have been. The wistfulness of the song continues as it drives itself in a speedy post-punk fury that complements soft-spoken manner Kele sings in.
And then we come to “The Prayer.” Of all the songs on this album, this is the only song that comes the closest to sounding like Silent Alarm. The song shares the same dance-punk vibe common on Silent Alarm albeit this time more under the influence or crunk-rapper Lil Jon. Much like “Song for Clay,” “The Prayer” also hits on club life and the escapism it provides, while also looking into the loneliness that causes such desperation for that lifestyle.
If anyone was looking for the highlights of A Weekend In the City, there are two outstanding tracks in particular to hone in on. One of them is “Where Is Home,” and while it’s interesting to think of the song as a companion piece to “Hunting For Witches,” in this song we are listening to the point of view of an immigrant who has to come to the grim reality that the country that he/she currently resides in considers him/her a nuisance. The pain and fragility of that song are heard when Kele sings:In every headline we are remindedKele is able to explore the identity crisis that many immigrants face from time to time. One where they have lost their connection to their country of origin yet feel no connection to the country they currently live in. Also note that the song takes place at a funeral, which heightens the connection to “Hunting for Witches” where the protagonists in that song had the desire to kill an immigrant.
That this is not home for us
Of all the songs on this album, the one that I will personally call my favorite is “I Still Remember.” It was when I first heard this song back in 2007 that I knew that I was going to not only love this album but that my love for Bloc Party was cemented. On this tune, Kele sings of lamenting the loss connection he had with a person that he cherished. I love the way that Kele is able to capture the disappointments of a failed the romantic connection, along with the regrets that comes with not expressing one’s true feelings. The most heart wrenching line in the song in my opinon is when Kele states “You should have asked me for it, how could I say no?” Whenever I think of the special ones who got away in my own life, it is “I Still Remember” that always plays in my head. It is a wondrous, vulnerable song that truly captures the pain of unrealized love.
Overall, A Weekend In the City is Bloc Party fully trying to establish an emotional connection with the audience, and in my opinion, they succeeded. It’s one thing to create an album filled with sad songs, but it’s another thing to create something that is truly honest about the many difficulties in life and how at a young age, every aspect of life seems set to fail. While many will call Silent Alarm Bloc Party’s masterpiece I still argue that their true masterpiece came two years later. I don’t know if everyone else will ever believe it, but time will tell. Why not give it a listen and see for yourself?
Hear the album on Spotify or Last.fm
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