‘Intimacy’ offers pleasant surprise


The release of Bloc Party’s third album “Intimacy” was sudden and welcomed. Available digitally on Aug. 21 through the band’s Web site, the 10-track album was announced just three days prior to its release. It was then available to the masses only as a $10 download, a modern tactic being dubbed “pulling a Radiohead.” “Intimacy,” which will see a physical release in October, was released online to avoid the leakage that occurred a year and a half ago when “A Weekend in the City” was widely available online months before its release.

When an album drops out of seemingly nowhere, it’s sometimes frightening because it could be a sign that the artist rushed the writing and recording process. However, Bloc Party deserves credit. Not only did they keep “Intimacy” a secret from the world, but their secret was a wonderful rock record – one that’s worth a longer wait than three days.

The British electro-rockers have again embraced the faster, danceable indie-rock sound that gave “Silent Alarm” its high points and eventual mainstream success. This is a step away from the more melodic, lyrically-driven and melody-lacking tracks that dominated “Weekend.”

Highlights of the new work include the speedy “Halo,” where drummer Matt Tong shines. It’s vintage Bloc Party – and by vintage, I mean circa 2005 – with drumming so tight it borders on mechanical, and a rip-roaring riff in the chorus. “Trojan Horse” and “One Month Off” are more standout, fast-paced hard hitters. “One Month Off” may be the album’s catchiest track, with frontman Kele Okereke wailing over spiraling electro noise and a guitar riff that should be a new favorite for fans. “Signs,” the best of the slower ballads on the record, is memorable for its subtle beauty and uniqueness – it’s soft, orchestral sound is different than anything Bloc Party has done in the past.

“Mercury,” the album’s first single, was released in July through the band’s Web site. The track, which ended up on several setlists for the band’s summer shows, is fun and catchy at first, but its repetitiveness (The line “My mercury’s in retrograde” is looped, scratched and mixed repeatedly) may prove annoying over time.

If the album has a visible flaw, it may be the electronic experimentation has been overdone. Bloc Party really seems to have pulled every Pro Tools trick imaginable, and “Mercury” could be an unfortunate casualty. Still, the evolution of the sound is sometimes refreshing, and the album’s opener “Ares” is a fine example.

Lined up with their first two albums, “Intimacy” falls somewhere short of “Silent Alarm” but ahead of “Weekend.” The letdown of “Weekend” is in the past, as “Intimacy” offers many more melodies that can be latched on to – and a lot more maddening beats and riffing guitars, which is what Bloc Party does best.