Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Day Late But Fuck Your Short Dollars

So apparently the mystery surrounding the ambiguous posting on Bloc Party's site was a teaser for their new song "Mercury". As reported on various music blogs, Bloc Party used their showing on the Zane Lowe segment to play a song slated for their newest album. While the album is still in the works, they had the completed "Mercury" ready for preview. It's quite a good way to promote the new record without coming off as too artificial. Simplistic almost to a fault, yet effective enough to keep the tongues of hardcore Bloc Party fans wagging. I only noticed the site teaser while working on another post earlier this week and needed a link to their site. I've always liked the clean design of their site. It's an aesthetic choice fitting for a band that does a lot to let their music speak for itself.
Now, the new song itself is drastically different than previous efforts (I would say radically if it wasn't for the use of looped bits and electronic noise on a few tracks from their last album). Even so, "Mercury" is a great song and a logical direction for the band's sound coming off A Weekend In The City. The heavy use of key bass, 808 drum beats, quick-cut vocals and symphonic backing along with noise art loops and LCD Soundsystem-style claves and other hand percussion instruments form the core of the track's sound. Layered over these new elements are Matt Tongs complex drumming and Gordon Moakes thunking bass lines. Conspicuously missing is Russell Lissack's distinctive guitar work with the only occasional guitar riff making a subdued appearance. Lead singer Kele Okereke's lyrics speak of smoothness and predictable actions which contrasts with the stop-start structure of the song. The music's chopped-up sound points to the chaotic undercurrent of reality while Kele sings of things that are meant to give that chaos the appearance of a continuous narrative.
The seperation between what "Mercury" has to offer and Bloc Party's previous efforts is comparable to Radiohead's transition from The Bends to Ok Computer. This is not to say that Bloc Party is as innovative as Radiohead, but merely to mark the distance between A Weekend In The City and the sound "Mercury" represents. I doubt mainstream fans of the band will like the new sound but personally I love it. I think it's a good direction for the band to take in an era of music defined by the mix of electronica and rock music. More importantly, after two albums so guitar-laden and 90s influenced, the band needs some new tricks to avoid producing a stale rehash of their previous albums. Bloc Party had a distinctive sound when they first came on the scene and if "Mercury" is an indication they will continue to strive for distinctiveness. If the new album is truly their 'experimental' album then it's the right step for a band that avoided a serious sophmore slump with their second album. They have some room to play around now and are willing to take the risk of losing some older fans for the sake of uniqueness. It's a great track and I hope it earns some good critical reviews.

Mercury - Bloc Party