Sound — 7
The 'usual' hype that seems to revolve around every release was non-existent. A little more than 48 hours prior to release we were gifted the opportunity to pre-order and soon after the digital release of 'Intimacy' reached our ears. 'Intimacy' can crudely be described as the natural progression with regards to the evolution seen between 'Silent Alarm', 'Weekend in the City' and insights into the band's mind with 'Flux' & 'Mercury'. While 'Mercury' appears to be a substantial detraction from the original formula seen 3 years ago, in the context of 'Intimacy' it still remains well within the boundaries of Bloc Party. Opening with 'Ares' we are led into the effect driven and electro-influenced soundscape that defines much of 'Intimacy'. The crude nature of Okereke's yells, that follow into 'Mercury', are entwined within the effect-driven guitar riffs that bear little resemblance to anything of the past. The appearance of 'Mercury' afterwards bears little surprise and potentially sets the tone for a very 'big-beat' based album, heavily influenced by sample and synth based rhythms. We are then led down a nearly forgotten path with ' Halo', a throw back to the riff-driven days of Silent Alarm. Without doubt the most formulaic Bloc Party track on the album - it certainly impresses and is by no means a bad track, however deep within this feels like a song so easily written that brings nothing new or inspirational to the table. It's a tone found later on with 'Trojan Horse', again centric upon Lissack's guitar riffs, however increasingly evident is the exceedingly produced nature of the album, drafting samples and effects from way beyond the talents of any live sound engineer. Like 'Weekend in the City' this album certainly has it's quieter moments. 'Biko' highlights the more solemn side of Bloc Party, akin to efforts such as 'Sunday', but more so 'Emma Kate's Accident'. While a step back it begins to introduce the big-beat themes found earlier in the album, and again reinforces the electronic and produced theme of the album. 'Signs' on the other hand feels like an attempt to make a carbon-copy of 'The Warning' by Hot Chip. While a valiant effort, and in turn likable song, it lacks any of the uniqueness which has driven much of Bloc Party's success over the years. The album ultimately culminates in what feels to be the bands aim for the better part of two years now. "Better than Heaven" feels like a more complete take upon 'Uniform'. Driven by productions values and exposed vocals in the first act in soon turns it's laurels and grants us the rock-oriented mess than so kindly reminds those that enjoy Bloc Party why they listen to them in the first place. Sonically, this album is very different to it's predecessors, however retains much of the same atmosphere seen from Weekend in the City. Gone are the guitar hooks that are chanted along live by the crowd, replaced somewhat distastefully by Okereke's vocals as the weapon of choice. While they may not displease, the formula that has driven Bloc Party is no more, saturated in studio effects that take away from the true quality of the rest of the band.
Lyrics — 5
'Intimacy' is the most personal attempt from Okereke to date; ultimately however it fails to inspire and address like previous albums. The words feel convoluted with cliches, even their presentation often lacks the emotional drive seen in prior attempts - a distinct lack of conviction strikes me throughout vast portions of the album. Personally, there is nothing distinctly 'bad' or 'distasteful' about what is spoken - exceedingly when you place comparisons to prior attempts. "You get sadder, the smarter you get. And it's a bore." is one of the least striking images of all time, and while not a vital part of 'Better Than Heaven', is shortly followed by "And there was a time before we were born, when we stood in the garden". Unless I'm missing some deep, underlying message or themes, so little inspires and so much is approachable from face value requiring little thought and interpretation. While I like to refrain from making references to the past, as personal as "Biko" and "Trojan Horse" may be, when placed side by side with "Banquet" and "This Modern Love" they fail to inspire the same thought and desire to apply personal interpretation. 'Banquet' one of the more personal songs on Silent Alarm, delved into the emotions of sex, however it's true success from a lyrical perspective was to be found in it's interpretation. While not 'bad', 'challenging' to enjoy. A disappointment given how much I enjoyed the past.
Overall Impression — 7
This album remains well within the realms of what one would refer to Bloc Party, despite the distance that 'Mercury' creates for itself, that in the context of the album doesn't seem so far after all. It is the natural progression expected from Weekend in the City, electronically charged, while attempting, albeit rarely, to recapture the guitars found on Silent Alarm. While lyrically disheartening, it is the use of Okereke as the centerpiece for nearly every song that plays more to my worries. A strong vocalist that stutters rarely in his technical ability and his general presentation (though the emotion seen in the past lacks), the hooks are close to being forgotten, and similarly the rest of the band. Bloc Party feels increasingly like Okereke's stage.