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Bloc Party

Moving from hooky post-punk to ambitious genre-mashing -- and back again -- Bloc Party's artistic restlessness has served them well since the early 2000s. The mix of Kele Okereke's impassioned yelp and Russell Lissack's angular riffs on their first EPs helped shape British indie rock for the rest of the decade, but by the time Bloc Party released their platinum-selling 2005 debut album Silent Alarm, they'd added atmospheres drawn from post-rock and electronic textures to their style. The East London band continued to push themselves on 2007's A Weekend in the City and the following year's Intimacy, incorporating influences from hip-hop to modern composition and writing songs that ranged from socially aware to deeply personal. Bloc Party's later albums were also adventurous, whether they borrowed some of post-hardcore's bite on 2011's Four or mused on spirituality on 2016's reflective, redemptive Hymns. Despite hiatuses and lineup changes, when they returned to their razor-sharp post-punk on 2022's Alpha Games, Bloc Party sounded as fresh as ever. Lissack and Okereke first met while they were still in school, then bumped into each other again at the 1999 Reading Festival. Discovering they had musical tastes as well as friends in common, they began working on music together, with Lissack on guitar and Okereke on vocals and guitar. Bassist/vocalist Gordon Moakes joined the group after answering an ad placed in the NME, while drummer Matt Tong completed the lineup after auditioning for the band. The band spent their first few years finding their footing, and crafted a sound inspired by artists including Suede, the Chemical Brothers, Pixies, the Smiths, and Mogwai. Their name was also in flux: Initially known as Angel Range, they switched to Union for their first demo and ultimately settled on Bloc Party in 2003. The group's demo and concerts began to attract attention from both the press and their peers. At a 2003 Franz Ferdinand concert, Okereke gave a copy of Bloc Party's demo to the band's Alex Kapranos as well as BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq; the band invited Bloc Party to play at Domino's tenth anniversary party, while Lamacq played the single "She's Hearing Voices" and had Bloc Party record a live session on his show. The band also sent a copy of "She's Hearing Voices" to Dim Mak's Steve Aoki, who soon signed them to the label. Late that year, Bloc Party contributed the song "The Marshals are Dead" to the Angular Recording Corporation compilation The New Cross. In 2004, Bloc Party released a flurry of singles and EPs on a variety of labels. That February, Trash Aesthetics issued "She's Hearing Voices." In May, Moshi Moshi released "Banquet/Staying Fat;" later that month, the V2 EP Bloc Party collected both of those singles. Bloc Party made their debut on Wichita Recordings with July's "Little Thoughts/Tulips," which reached number 38 on the U.K. Singles Chart. In September, Bloc Party was released in the U.S. by Dim Mak, and the following month's single "Helicopter" peaked at number 26 in the U.K. During the middle of the year, Bloc Party also toured consistently and recorded their debut album in London and Copenhagen with producer Paul Epworth. The band rounded out the year with December's Little Thoughts EP, a Japanese release that collected their two previous singles as well as new songs. Arriving in February 2005, Bloc Party's debut album Silent Alarm earned acclaim for its mix of spiky indie rock and atmospheres influenced by dance, R&B, and pop music. Shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize and nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize, the album reached number three on the U.K. Albums Chart and spawned the hit singles "So Here We Are/Positive Tension," "Banquet," and "Pioneers." In Europe, Silent Alarm was certified gold within 24 hours of its release. In the U.S., where it was co-released by Dim Mak and Atlantic subsidiary Vice, it peaked at number seven on Billboard's Independent Albums chart. Eventually, Silent Alarm sold over one million copies worldwide and was certified platinum in the U.K. That August, Silent Alarm Remixed capitalized on the band's burgeoning popularity with remixes of the album's tracks by artists including Ladytron, Death from Above 1979, M83, Mogwai, and Four Tet. At the start of their U.K. tour in October, Bloc Party released the single "Two More Years." That year also saw the band contribute a track to the War Child benefit album Help! A Day in the Life, while Okereke appeared on the Chemical Brothers album Push the Button. When the Silent Alarm tour concluded in early 2006, Bloc Party started work on their second album. The group decamped to Westmeath, Ireland to record with Jacknife Lee, building on the dance undercurrents of their debut album and adding classical and R&B influences (as well as inspiration from bands like Radiohead and TV on the Radio). The results were February 2007's A Weekend in the City, which combined these ambitious sounds with songs that juxtaposed mundane and dramatic moments while tackling subjects like populist media, terrorism, racism, and sexuality. The album was a global hit and reached number two on the charts in Ireland, Australia, and the U.K., where "The Prayer" reached number four, making it Bloc Party's highest-charting single to date. In the U.S., A Weekend in the City peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, while "I Still Remember" hit number 24 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. The band toured the world extensively in support of the album, including festival dates in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. In November, Bloc Party issued the single "Flux," which was the group's most electronic-based music to date and became another top ten hit in the U.K. Inspired by the reception of "Flux" as well as the way A Weekend in the City leaked onto the Internet months before the album's street date, Bloc Party made their next album quickly and doubled down on their move into dance music. Working with Lee and Epworth, the band combined personal songs about heartache with kinetic, electronic-based productions, and recorded Intimacy in two weeks. Released digitally in August 2008 with a physical release following in October, the album reached number eight on the U.K. Albums Chart, and featured the U.K. Top 40 singles "Mercury" and "Talons." In the U.S., Intimacy peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Following a tour that included Bloc Party's first South American date, Intimacy Remixed appeared in May 2009 and featured contributions from No Age, Mogwai, and Armand Van Helden. That August, the band issued the single "One More Chance" and subsequently went on hiatus. During their time away from Bloc Party, the band's members pursued their other projects. Okereke worked on his own songs, moving to Berlin and collaborating with producers Hudson Mohawke and XXXchange in New York. His solo debut album, 2010's The Boxer, revealed that his own music was more dance-oriented than his work with Bloc Party. Lissack worked with Milena Milpris as Pin Me Down, whose self-titled debut album appeared in 2010. Moakes formed a side project, Young Legionnaire, with the Automatic's Paul Mullen and La Roux's William Bowerman. The post-hardcore group released their well-received debut album Crisis Works in 2011. That year, Bloc Party reunited to record their fourth album. Working with Young Legionnaire producer Alex Newport at New York City's Stratosphere Sound, the band returned to the angular, guitar-heavy sound of their earliest work on August 2012's Four. Released by Frenchkiss Records, the album was a top five hit in the U.K. and charted in many European countries; in the U.S., it reached number 36 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Bloc Party's creative streak continued into 2013, with the band debuting new songs on tour that appeared on that August's The Nextwave Sessions EP. Tong left the band during their mid-2013 tour, and Bloc Party went on hiatus once the promotional duties for Four were finished. The band's contribution to !K7's mix series Tapes, which featured cuts by Wiley, Junior Boys, and Fela Kuti, arrived the following October. Early in 2015, Moakes announced that he had left Bloc Party. When the band returned that August, it included new members Justin Harris -- formerly of the band Menomena -- on bass and Louise Bartle on drums. The group's fifth album, Hymns, which featured a soulful, groove-driven rock approach, arrived in January 2016. featured a soulful, groove-driven approach inspired by gospel and artists ranging from Talk Talk to Donna Summer, arrived in January 2016 and reached number 12 on the U.K. Albums Chart. Later that year, the band released the single "Stunt Queen" in celebration of their show at the Hollywood Bowl. Okereke then returned to his solo career with 2017's acoustic-leaning album Fatherland. In 2018, Bloc Party embarked on a short tour of the U.K. and Europe where they played Silent Alarm in its entirety; it was so successful that it spawned the concert album Silent Alarm Live, and the band extended the tour to the U.S. in 2019. Performing their debut album reignited their interest in rock, and they had their sixth full-length ready to record when the COVID-19 global pandemic forced Bloc Party to put their plans on hold. During that time, Okereke issued another solo album, May 2021's The Waves, Pt. 1. The following April saw the release of Alpha Games, a set of spiky rock songs that harked back to the band's early days and featured production by Nick Launay and Adam Greenspan as well as Bartle's first appearance on a Bloc Party album.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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