It is hardly a coincidence that Bloc Party announced their new EP The Nextwave Sessions along with another hiatus. Personally I’m not so sure the band will survive another hiatus unless this is just another huge PR prank. But there is something about this new EP that echoes a complaint I’ve heard from a few people who’ve seen and heard Bloc Party lately, an overly present frontman, namely Kele.
The band worked with producer Dan Carey (Bat For Lashes, Lianna La Havas and Hot Chip) on the two tracks that open the EP – Ratchet and Obscene.
While the opening track and first single off the EP Ratchet is probably closest to their latest album Four with its frantic math rock beat, songs like Obscene or Montreal drop all the instruments for synthesizers. This takes Bloc Party back to their Intimacy days and finally Kele’s solo album The Boxer.
Obscene is a slow ballad that was recorded electronically in its entirety. The music is very basic with just a clap-hands beat and a repeating synth pattern and thus essentially rests on Kele’s vocals. As such it’s closer to Kele’s Yesterday’s Gone or The New Rules from his 2010 solo album. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as those are all great songs in their own right but what I’m missing here is the band. Obscene is a Kele rather than a Bloc Party song. If you listen to them in a row you would hardly notice that Obscene isn’t on his solo album.
French Exit kicks things up a notch. It takes Bloc Party back to the math rock heyday of Silent Alarm and its latter-day revival on their most recent record Four.
Montreal is a striking example of how Bloc Party are capable of crafting beautiful ballads. Similar to Obscene it uses very basic drum and guitar patterns the main difference being that it features actual instruments and background vocals provided by the band whereas Obscene could have easily been recorded by Kele alone.
Children Of The Future rounds off the EP. The opening guitar riff and drums immediately reminded me of The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979. It’s a song about the children being the future and the next wave (which probably give the EP its name) and how they are not to repeat the mistakes of the current generation. I’m really not a fan of such blatant harmonic lyrics and they seem a bit out of character for Bloc Party and Kele who usually provides us with much more ingenious lyrics. Despite the (probably unintended) Pumpkins allusion this song is certainly the weakest on the record.
All in all, The Nextwave Sessions is a solid EP that continues where Four left off without sounding like a collection of b-sides. I think this might be the last Bloc Party release for a while (if you discount the possible remixes, b-sides and live recordings) but it already shows where things are headed… towards a new Kele solo record.
The EP will be released on August 9th in the UK and Europe and on August 13th in the US.
- French Exit
- Children of the Future
Also published on Medium.