Four [Deluxe Edition]
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2012
On May 31st of this year, Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke took to the internet. He began by apologizing for two not-very-funny jokes that had come in the months since Christmas 2010. One had suggested that he was booted from the band (he explained that he himself created the lie and it got out of control), and another suggested that an aging ex-Pearl Jam drummer had replaced mainstay Matt Tong. Neither of these hoax attempts were true - nor were they necessary. After the tour supporting their last album, 2008's Intimacy, Bloc Party found themselves at a creative standstill. Okereke thought the timing was right to "make a record that excites people in the clubs like M.I.A.'s XR2," as he put it. With a solo album and a dubstep EP behind him, Okereke explained that Bloc Party were indeed back together and had, in fact, just wrapped up recording their best record to date in Manhattan.

Bloc Party has a strong following comprised of two types of fans: there are fans that embrace their constant evolution and fans that want them to record Silent Alarm over and over and over again. After listening to Four - an album Okereke says got its title not because it was the band`s fourth album, but rather because it was a raw sound of four guys playing in room together - this record will both satisfy fans from both camps, and alienate some fans from both camps. Interested in always evolving, Bloc Party ditched both of their former producers, Jackknife Lee and Paul Epworth, and recruited producer Alex Newport of Mars Volta fame. Newport suggested that Bloc Party make a record the old-fashioned way: no ProTools, no layering, no over-synthesized effects. The outcome is a record that, at times, rocks harder than anything that the band has ever done.

The lead single, "Octopus," finds the band renewed and revitalized. It's energetic, aggressive, and incredibly inventive. The guitar recalls one of guitarist Russell Lissack's heroes, Graham Coxon of Blur (see "On Your Own" from Blur's 1997 eponymous album). With that said, "Octopus" is really no indication of what was to come. Apart from this single and a similarly styled track called "Team A," you can hardly hear the influences that had littered their first three albums (Suede, The Cure, Blur, and The Smiths). Also, you get the sense that Kele has the danceclub electronics completely out of his system and that he's given Russell the key to the closet where he had his guitar locked up for more than four years. In fact, their last single before the hiatus, "One More Chance," now sounds like a different band.

The album showcases Russell's guitar - and an influence that may remind one of Deftones' White Pony (see "Kettling" and "3x3") . Matt Tong's explosive drumming returns to the fore. Interestingly, Kele has dumbed down his lyrics quite a bit for this record in a purposeful way, similar to what one of his idols Brett Anderson did when writing Suede's 1996 album Coming Up. Along with less meaningful, less heartbreaking and personal lyrical content, many songs show a more subdued vocal. That works here because the purpose of this record is to showcase all four members (all masters of their craft) not just Kele. This record is about a rock guitar that, in parts, may shock Bloc Party's fan base.

But make no mistake: this does not sound anything like Silent Alarm. If you were hoping to bounce along to a "Helicopter" sound-alike, you're not going to get that. Instead, you get songs like "Kettling," their hardest rocking track to date. It rocks so hard, it almost cannot even be classified as alternative rock - though it does seem to have a bass structure very similar to "Bulls on Parade" from Rage Against the Machine. This is one the record's standout tracks that finds Okereke aggressively belting out, "We smash the window! Popo don't ---- around!", telling the story of the recent riots in London - through the eyes of the rioter. Other glimpses of rock guitar can be found on the tracks "Coliseum" (complete with an intro that recalls Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "Ain't No Easy Way" from "HOWL") and "We Are Not Good People." While you do get glimpses of A Weekend In the City-era Bloc Party on tracks like "Day Four", the splendid and melodic "The Healing, and "Truth," and unfortunately get some less immediate songs, like on the record's most personal track "Real Talk," this album, while often showcasing varying styles, is cohesive and reiterates Bloc Party's legacy of constant evolution. But instead of defining evolution as pretentious, oft-unlistenable electronic noise (ahem, King of Limbs), they define it as showing the world they can often rock as hard as anyone - and at times even harder than Silent Alarm. It's a very strong return effort. Is it Bloc Party's best record? I'm not quite ready to give it such a crown - especially with Silent Alarm in their back catalogue, but I can confirm these two things: Pitchfork got it wrong this time - and having scanned Four`s deluxe edition from front-to-back seventeen times now, curiously, Kele never says the word "cruel" once.

Start With: KETTLING, V.A.L.I.S., COLISEUM, THE HEALING
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2012
I love Bloc Party. I've been hooked since Silent Alarm and thought the way they successfully fused electronica and punk on 'Intimacy' was groundbreaking. 'Weekend in the City' was a pretty good album even if the B-sides were better than a lot of the official tracks. Regardless, they've always pushed themselves in new directions. Up 'til this album, anyway.

Frontman Kele Okereke has emphasized in interviews how 'Four' is just about four guys just jamming it out in the studio. He isn't lying: the production is minimal, the tracks go off in all sorts of directions (sometimes quite heavy) and there's nary a trace of their usual electronic influences to be found. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as a mediocre Bloc Party jam session is better than most band's best efforts, but by this post-punk foursome's standards they are phoning it in. The whole album smells of contractual obligation to me.

That's not to say there aren't good songs on here. Your mileage may vary (as evidenced by other reviews here) but for my money I find 'Real Talk', 'Kettling' and 'VALIS' quite enjoyable, while stuff like the opener 'So He Begins To Lie' feel derivative and forgettable. Mediocrity from Bloc Party? Say it ain't so!

There are tracks I dig on this album but I feel like the production (can it be called that? it literally sounds like they just turned on the soundboard and started playing) doesn't serve them well. Kele's got one of those unique voices that has to be handled carefully, and here it is too often buried in the mix or standing out above everything else, and not in a good way.

After several years full of rumors of the band's demise, I'm glad to see an album from them in any form. And maybe this was the album they needed to get out of their system to feel re-energized and rejuvenated. But it's definitely my least favorite album from the foursome so far and I find myself looking forward to the next, 'real' album.

If you're a big Bloc Party fan, you should definitely get this album, because hey, it's Bloc Party. But if you haven't really experienced their music before, don't start here. Go back and start with 'Silent Alarm' and work your way forward (don't neglect the remix albums!).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2012
Bloc Party's recent release, FOUR, is aptly named: it's been four years since their last album, the band's personnel consists of four core members, and after all, this is their fourth studio album. It comes after a two-year self-imposed hiatus that found members of Bloc Party dabbling in other projects briefly (notably, lead singer Kele Okereke's electronic-dance record THE BOXER). After the band's 3rd album INTIMACY, the break seems to have rejuvenated the band's music and energy. With help from producer Alex Newport (who has helped with At the Drive-In/The Mars Volta, and City and Colour), FOUR has an energy and immediacy that hasn't been heard in Bloc Party since their debut.

Where more indie-rock groups have decidedly gone more electronic in recent times, Bloc Party's FOUR is raw in comparison. Even with the beginning of the album, the band has taken an approach that is messy and streamlined: "So He Begins to Lie" gives a false start before launching into the song proper. The track leads into "3x3," a song that picks up the pace even further. The album-promoting single "Octopus" serves as a highlight of the album, and it's a good representative sample for the rest of the album (guitar-centric, with the vocalist pleading with his trademark vocals). FOUR's first downtempo song, "Real Talk" is a great detour that veers in some unexpected places. The Philip K. Dick-inspired "V.A.L.I.S." is a decent enough song, but it's head-bobbing, hand-clapping beat is infectious. The lyrics here aren't nearly as revealing or heartbreaking as they were on previous albums (particularly A WEEKEND IN THE CITY), with much of the content here focusing on anarchy and paranoia. The album seems to lose its way towards the end -- the riffs aren't as hard, the vocals not as urgent, the ballads not as heartbreaking -- but it's alright: FOUR is a fun ride worth taking.

Fans of Bloc Party's SILENT ALARM will really dig this record. I would recommend this to fans of Artic Monkeys, Metric, and Two-Door Cinema Club. The harder edge that the band brings to this album may put off some of the band's more recent fans, but it will be sure to surprise others. Essential tracks to sample/download: "Real Talk," "3x3," and "Octopus."

(Additional Release Information)
Bloc Party's FOUR is scattered across a variety of editions. The "normal" edition is a dozen tracks long. The iTunes-exclusive edition comes with an extra track: "Black Crown." The Amazon MP3-exclusive edition comes with an extra track: "Lean." The "Deluxe Edition" of FOUR includes two tracks: "Mean," and "Leaf Skeleton."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2012
This is my least favorite Bloc Party album. Even after multiple listens, it hasn't grown on me all that much. My least favorite tunes are the ones in which they try a harder rock feel; it doesn't really suit them. My three favorite songs on this release are Octopus, Truth, and V.A.L.I.S.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon August 21, 2012
On their aptly titled fourth album "Four", UK Indie quartet Bloc Party ditch the electro dance sound of "Intimacy" or even lead vocalist Kele Okereke's solo efforts ("The Boxer" and "The Hunter EP") and return to their guitar roots, as tracks like the crunchy pair of "So He Begins To Lie" and "Kettling" (the latter inspired by the London riots of last year), the frenetic "3x3" (with whispered to urgent vocals), the stuttering "Octopus", the Bluesy "Coliseum" (with explosive bursts of guitar), the Dance/Rock "V.A.L.I.S", the twitchy groovy "Team A" show, or the mesmerizing "Mean" (available on the deluxe edition) show.

Quieting things down are "Real Talk" (with Okereke's raw bruised vocals set to a shuffling and jangly backdrop), "Day Four" (with chiming guitars), the pulsing "Truth", and the lovely "The Healing" (sung in dreamy falsetto).

A winner!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2012
I'm going to keep this short and sweet. What makes Bloc Party such an amazing band is their ability to simply evolve their sound. Each album has it's own unique genius and Four is just another addition to an already amazing discography. This is not to say the Bloc Party's infallible, but honestly this album is one for the ages. I say pick it up, sit back, and enjoy. It's another win for Bloc Party.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
GOSH!! I miss this post-punk revival stuff. This is what indie rock is, not that crappy trendy/hipster garbage that emerged from hell in early 2007 and has since taken over. I miss this stuff. *reminiscences on bands of the same style* The Strokes, Interpol, Hot Hot Heat, Franz Ferdinand, etc. I love this record. I can't stop listening to it. Eventually I will know it by heart, start to finish.

Thank you Bloc Party. The hiatus sucked. (;
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on May 21, 2014
If you like Bloc Party's first album, which is simply brilliant, then you'll love this one too. Following in the same vain, but sufficiently more complex and deep to add enough interest to keep it playing.
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on December 31, 2013
It alternates between slightly aggressive rock sounds and lighter ballads, but entertaining from start to finish. In both the lighter and heavier songs, there is an emphasis on rhythmic guitar riffs, so when combined with the very melodic vocals, you get some super catchy songs.

I feel like these guys went back to their roots, then added in some experimentation and it really paid off.
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on August 6, 2013
I love Bloc Party! This album would be great if you like the band and their great music, and for your collection.
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