It’s all about being young, and all about being free, is rock and roll. It’s music of promise, of girls, drugs, tours, sex, long nights and dead days, of freedom and speed. It’s Dennis Hopper, it’s Jimi Hendrix, it’s death by vomit, by electrocution, by drugs. It’s all about the extraordinary.
So why, why does indie rock venerate the normal? Why do “emotions” take centre stage? Easy really, they always have. Nick Hornby got it right in High Fidelity, basically: pop is depressing, it’s about heartbreak, about love won quickly and lost forever, and the songs about hope almost always end in death or destruction, in the breaking of a spirit.
There we go, rock/pop/indie/whatever’s great dichotomy – the outlandish vs the emotional. Some great songwriters got it band on; Dylan did it, Lennon/McCartney (McCartney/Lennon) did it, and Willie Dixon, always, always, had it. It’s a prerequisite for greatness, and this lot have sort of got it. Okereke/Moakes. Doesn’t trip off the tongue but I’ll bet that lasts longer than the image that is Franz Ferdinand. When you can change pace, change sound, yet still project a “-ness”, a certain intrinsic quality about oneself, then one has a sound. No song on this album doesn’t sound like Bloc Party. No song sounds out of place. But no song sounds formulaic.
There are slow ones, fast ones, depressing ones, more depressing ones, political ones and emotional ones. Like Eating Glass, an incredible opening song, follows no particular pattern, but explodes and twists, borne along by the metronome that is Matt Tong and the new Dr Funkenstein that is Gordon Moakes. These two make Bloc Party something else – Okereke and Lissack give them the punk, the prog, the rock, the pyro. It’s the rhythm section that makes Positive Tension so tense.
Singles are good indicators of what a band feels is saleable. Or, what the management thinks they can sell. Or, what the band thinks they can convince the management to sell, as no way, no sodding way, would I ever release The Pioneers over Like Eating Glass (permit me this minor detour, as Pioneers, whilst great, is nowhere near as catchy as Like…) Banquet – slowish one, emotional. Helicopter – fast-ish, political. Both also contain incredible guitar lines. I reserve judgement on the best bit of Russel showing offs (Luno? Plans? She’s Hearing Voices?), he is too cool.
There are just two tracks I can’t quite bring myself to enthuse over, however. Blue Light is good, but too short – it’s more like an intro to a better song, and it feels, if not unfinished, then a bit breathless. Compliments, the nominal closer (although the instrumental secret trakc is creepy as hell) is also a bit odd. It’s murkier than the rest of the album, which has a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of feel, torches-in-the-dark-of-the-woods: basically, it’s dark, it’s depressing, but there are brief flashes of hope, through the bile and anger of Price Of Gas, the yearning of Banquet, the hope of Pioneers or the weeping loveliness of This Modern Love and So Here We Are.
The dynamic shifts and complete turnarounds in the songs always keep me on my toes, as any great punk-funk-indie-electronica-guitarist show off-“unpigeonholeable” (NME) album ought to do. Sod it, they are the greatest ever. Until next week, at least. Well, next year. They’ve done a Franz Ferdinand. Next year, who’s going to do a Bloc Party? No idea, but I hope that it’s Bloc Party. A little continuity on “the scene” never did anyone any harm. The Beatles had over a decade, the Stones have gone on for forty years, and Floyd have been tripping for about the same time. Give the guys a break, let them make the ‘difficult’ second album and let’s be astonished.