Album Reviews: Silent Alarm by Bloc PartyIn the music critic's system of checks and balances, buzz always begets backlash. Bloc Party, anointed as one of the year’s big things well before their debut’s Stateside release, will doubtlessly attract its share of carpers, too, but they don’t offer up much to pounce on. As a debut, Silent Alarm is much better than it needs to be to attract attention, and Bloc Party boasts both a smart, socially conscious frontman in Kele Okerere and perhaps the best rhythm section in the post-punk genre. Instant gratification is served up in handfuls (“Like Eating Glass,” “Price of Gas,” “Banquet,” “Little Thoughts”), allowing plenty of repeat listens for the slower, subtler pleasures to take hold.
Bloc Party is less precious and art-dorky than Franz Ferdinand, who they nonetheless owe a heavy debt to, not so much because the bands sound alike -- they don’t, really -- but because Franz has softened up the mainstream for danceable guitar-rock, serving as a sort of gateway drug for people looking to experiment with the kind of music that wasn’t on the popular radar a few years ago. Despite some unexpectedly fervent and on-point lyrics, Bloc Party isn’t the heavy stuff -- it’s not going to seep inside and do any rewiring -- but it does cause an immediate, familiar rush of pleasure. Their appeal is deliberately wide, providing common ground for an insufferable hipster and a Top 40-phile, allowing each to enjoy separate aspects of the sound while sharing the overarching one: It’s just fun to listen to.
Silent Alarm isn’t an essential album, but it will likely become a timeless one for legions of people, for whom it will remain a partial soundtrack -- and satisfying reminder -- of 2005. - Adam McKibbin
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