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Bloc Party - Alpha Games (Album Review)

Friday, 06 May 2022 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Wunmi Onibudo

Bloc Party’s sixth LP ‘Alpha Games’ is one where Kele Okereke has attempted to write about “people in extreme situations making extreme choices”. He also claims to have ventured into new realms with his lyricism, and there is some truth to that even if this is a record inspired by a brave musical outlook that doesn’t always deliver the goods.

Callum Is A Snake, a vitriolic attack on the type of person we have all known, is the most obvious example of this new found confidence. The vocals themselves, though, are delivered in a slightly annoying manner alongside hissing sounds too cringe-inducing for their own good. It’s also not the only moment when that’s the case, unfortunately.

The first seedlings for the new album arrived when this new line up of the band were touring behind the anniversary of Bloc Party’s debut album ‘Silent Alarm’ in 2018-19, and that LP’s influence can be heard on many tracks.

Opener Day Drinker kicks with the energy of old: the guitars sound refreshingly vigorous even though the track is held back by muddled words and disappears into itself come the ending. In Situ is another echo of the past, but its riveting burst towards its conclusion is over too soon. Elsewhere, the echoes of former glories are less successful.

‘Alpha Games’ is the first studio album laid down by this particular Bloc Party iteration, with drummer Louise Bartle joining in the wake of 2016’s ‘Hymns’, despite them having toured together for some time. As such, the tracks that rely less on the Bloc Party of the early 2000s are the future. At the heart of the record we have a couple of winners. 

Sex Magik has a dull intro but defies the odds to conjure an excellent track about a teenage fling. Its catchy chorus is a notable highlight of a generally unremarkable collection of songs and directly preceding it is the pinnacle of the album. Of Things Yet To Come has an addictive repetitive hook, while its subject matters tackles regrets around past behaviours. It is a diamond sat among a pile of pebbles.

You Should Know The Truth and the fractured By Any Means Necessary are too reliant on the old way and are shown up by If We Get Caught, where another catchy chorus appeals, and the closer The Peace Offering, which is again rather different and, unsurprisingly, again rather good. 

The apparent desire to revisit the ‘Silent Alarm’ era is what’s holding ‘Alpha Games’ back. When there is open water between itself and the early days, it’s a keeper. Time to be even braver and move on—the future is as potentially as exciting as the past.

Bloc Party Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu May 26 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Fri May 27 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sat May 28 2022 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Mon May 30 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue May 31 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Thu June 02 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Fri June 03 2022 - GLASGOW Barrowland Ballroom
Sat June 04 2022 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds

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