i’m eschewing the postal service in this slot for obvious reasons; everyone’s talking about the upcoming reunion, so i feel like i would just be beating a dead horse if i joined in on the fun. i’ll talk about bloc party instead.
i spent a lot of time in the car driving this summer. not the majority of it, but i made a few trips from my hometown to eau claire, which is almost exactly two hours each way. silent alarm was in the car with me on all of those trips. i don’t know if it’s a cyclical thing or a seasonal thing, but i always come back to bloc party and their debut album every six months: once in the summer and once in the winter. i discovered that post-punk makes surprisingly good driving music, and it gave me time to study a really obvious aspect of bloc party that i had always bypassed in the past. instead of focusing on the intertwining guitar lines and the incredibly tight rhythm section, i honed in on kele okereke’s unorthodox lyrical stylings. forget his actual singing voice, which is arguably just as much a singular trait of his; okereke’s lyrics are strikingly asymmetrical, ignoring standard pop compositional formats in favor of establishing a series of one-sided conversations. this is especially apparent on “positive tension,” one of my favorites across silent alarm.
okereke witnesses two sides of an argument: a man belittling a woman for being weak and boring, and her feeble attempt to win him over sexually. okereke plays on repetition, returning to central themes and embellishing on them during verses, and also avoids rhyming to the extreme. it’s a common occurrence throughout most bloc party songs, and holds up well here on “positive tension,” especially during the chorus. rather than provide the listener with an instantly-memorable, tangible hook, okereke strips back the aesthetic of rhyme and relies solely on the melodic contour of the vocal line to sell his point, and it works. for proof, check out bloc party’s performance at glastonbury in 2009, the apex of their career. even though it’s four years after the release of silent alarm, the band still plays with a level of conviction that they never quite again matched after returning from their hiatus. silent alarm is bloc party’s true masterpiece, proof that there are early bloomers in the music industry.