Matching the excitement of their British Isle brethren of Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Klaxons, Bloc Party’s debut album Silent Alarm entered the indie world at an incredibly important time mixing post-punk with dance-punk and Libertines/Strokes guitar-forward indie rock. The debut record left its mark on the world of indie and alternative rock ranking high by us here at Melophobe as the 53rd best indie rock album of all time. Other music publications from NME to Clash hold it in even higher regard than we did. The debut album seamlessly blended danceable, Stone Roses-esque jams with Johnny Marr style guitar hooks to create some of the most era-defining indie rock songs like Banquet, Helicopter and This Modern Love.
Building upon demo takes from the year prior to 2005, the band perfected its previously written tracks expanding, and reinventing their bass and drums takes while vocalist/guitarist Kele Okereke and lead guitarist Russell Lissack added infectious melodies on top. If the goal was to create a sonically perfected, 21st century post-punk record, then that goal was met. Okereke’s authentically British vocal presence adds an element of believability to the lyrics akin to the early British punk rock days. The dramatic dynamic contrast in volume between songs, alongside advanced, modern guitar lines establish a clear distinction between the aggressive style of the early punk-rockers, to the newer rendition of the post-punk style. Building upon influences of early punk rock, alongside 80’s and early 90’s indie rock allowed not only Bloc Party, but Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dandy Warhols and TV on the Radio to reinvent the post-punk scene of the 80’s in the new century.
This Modern Love, like many tracks on the record, features dueling guitar lines above a bass guitar, not too loud, not too quiet in a style creating a sound, instantly recognizable as Bloc Party, even before you hear the equally identifiable vocals. Okereke’s graceful voice rests atop the instrumentation, again featuring a unique, dueling/back and forth quality heard on a handful of the album's songs. Tracks like This Modern Love and The Pioneers marked a noticeable style of distinction between the more, in your face, post-punk revivalists like The Libertines and the more delicate harmonious, dynamic style of, say, Interpol. With that being said, tracks like Helicopter or Banquet bluntly show the band still had an urge to have their music hit you right in the face.
Perhaps taking some influence from Radiohead with their guitar pedals and sonic use of synths alongside vocal similarities in phrasing and lyrical placement, the band exhibits a level of respect for their musical craft on Silent Alarm that becomes very present after repeated listens. Alongside Radiohead, decades worth of influence can be heard in the 14-track record from The Cure to Echo & the Bunnymen. What’s really cool though is the group’s inclination to make so many of the songs danceable, akin to the Madchester or indie-dance scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Spacious use of their lyrics, alongside upbeat and danceworthy hooks just belt out Stone Roses, at least on some of the songs.
Building huge, beautiful soundscapes on the record, So We Are Here creates a room saturating landscape including intricate, orchestral at times drumming by Matt Tong, again backed with dueling guitar patterns. Spacious vocal patterns and microphone effects at least remind me a tad of OK Computer. Of course, the fast paced intro of Luno making a callback to Like Eating Glass gets the Radiohead notion out of your ear pretty quickly.
18 years later, the record still wows. Like a handful of indie rockers, Bloc Party’s top-tier musicians left the world with a bunch of new, memorable guitar licks to keep coming back to again and again. Unique vocals, not only sonically, but lyrically did their part as well to leave Silent Alarm’s mark on indie rock. Not much to dislike about the record, hardly anything to be honest. As time has gone on, Silent Alarm still remains quite high in the pantheon of post-2000 indie rock. Although the record may still have not quite packed the punch of Turn On the Bright Lights, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, or Is This It, at least to critics, it still sits quite high and is always worth the listen.