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Album Review: Bloc Party – Alpha Games

The deep cut v-necks and smeared mascara of the early 2000s have been cropping up in the fashion blogs again as ‘indie sleaze’. While they’ve had few line-up changes and lifted a lot of weights since 2004’s Silent Alarm, Bloc Party still have their heads somewhere between the nightclub and the gutter: their stuttering drum breaks and whirling guitars leading doe-eyed innocents astray into the dark corners of parties with champagne in plastic glasses and cocaine cut with seltzer, the cool kids taunting ‘you can’t hang with us’. ‘Ooh, you’re a wrong un’, trills Kele Okere on the gloriously acerbic ‘Callum is A Snake’, clearly enjoying every moment of the dysfunction unravelling around him. The album is packed with these sketchy characters, revelling in the shadowy sleaze on the edges of fame.

It’s not all tight shorts and black lipstick, though: ‘the things you do for blow or a little guest list have consequences’ and the paranoia and emptiness of the morning comes to every party. The second half of the album strikes a more fragile, regretful tone.

‘Of Things Yet To Come’ has a tentative positivity growing from its spidery spirals and the Crowley- referencing single ‘Sex Magik’ brings a dark seductiveness to the elemental chant of its chorus.

Okere has said that a lot of the inspiration for the album came from revisiting the energy of the band’s early material, and it’s palpable in the music – the glam rock stomp and screeching stylophone solo of ‘The Girls Are Fighting’ recalls as much of the electroclash of Add (N) to X or Ladytron as it does the platforms of the seventies, with the house beats and ecstatic synths on ‘By Any Means Necessary’ reminiscent of 2007’s ‘Flux’. It’s an album clearly made to be played live, staggering off into the sulphur-lit city night.

Alpha Games is out now via Infectious/BMG.

Bloc Party play Glasgow Barrowlands on 3rd June

Photo Credit: Wunmi Onibudo

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