Is it worth a listen? Silent Alarm

This week we are discussing the British band Bloc Party’s 2005 debut album Silent Alarm.

The album cover for Bloc Partys 2005 debut album Silent Alarm

Ness Sherry

The album cover for Bloc Party’s 2005 debut album Silent Alarm

The early 2000s contained the rise of indie-rock music this scene was most apparent in New York City, ranging from The Killers (“Mr Brightside”, “Somebody Told Me”) to The Strokes (“Last Nite”, “Reptilia”), to Interpol (“Obstacle 1”, “Slow Hands”). The music coming out in this era had a very distinct sound to it, influences drawing from classic bands such as Talking Heads (“Psycho Killer”, “Once In A Lifetime”) and The Velvet Underground (“Venus in Furs”, “Femme Fatale”). As always across the ocean held bands with similar influences and sound but went unnoticed in the U.S, Bloc Party being one of those bands. 

Throughout the 60s to the 70s, you saw a continuous flow of British music being popular over here, however in the 80s U.S. music started overshadowing the Brits and soon enough the charts were filled with more American artists rather than British. In the 2000s British rock and alternative wasn’t really receiving airplay in the U.S, really the only stuff was the occasional Oasis song (“Wonderwall”, “Champagne Supernova”) and the one Blur song (“Song 2”). Bloc Party went under the radar here in the states except the single “Banquet” from their 2005 debut album, Silent Alarm. 

The album was a huge success in the UK Bloc Party was thrown into the spotlight, it peaked as no. 3 on the UK albums chart. The angsty teen, young adult lyrics, the punchy instrumentals and the at times nasally vocals define this album. For better or worse it is a product of its time. This album tries on a lot of different genres and for the most part it works. 

Bloc Party for Silent Alarm was made up of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke, lead guitarist Russell Lissack, backup vocalist and bassist Gordon Moakes. Last but not least, drummer Matt Tong. 

The original Bloc Party lineup performing. From left to right, you have Russell Lissack on lead guitar, Kele Okereke singing and on rhythm guitar, Matt Tong on drums and Gordon Moakes on bass (NME )

Joining our discussion of Silent Alarm, is returning senior as well as experienced drummer Evan Steece, and for the first time English teacher Alexandra Geahlen. Let’s get started. 

“‘Like Eating Glass’, it feels like the curtain opens and the stage is set for what this album is going to present to us.” Steece insightfully brought out during our conversation. The track really does feel like that, it has this scratchy opening guitar part that draws you in as the drums kick in. 

For Geahlen she found herself drawn in by the instrumentals but as soon as the vocals started she got taken out. She could not find the same enjoyment of the vocals as me and Steece had found. Which is understandable. 

Okereke does have this nasally voice that can come off as being whiny combined with his British accent that shines through every song. Despite how I understand where she is coming from, I find myself agreeing more with Steece man and what he voiced regarding his feelings on Okereke. 

“He’s just an amazing vocalist to add. He’s so versatile on each track to really convey his emotion and you can really feel it within what he’s saying.” In the end I just can not imagine these songs with any other vocalist.  

One thing that goes underrated when it comes to this album is the lyrics. To put it simply the lyrics are beautifully poetic at times and for me I found them resonating with me. For the opening track “Like Eating Glass”, I would not say that it resonated as much as others but I found myself enjoying the lyrics. 

The song is essentially talking about this cold, dysfunctional relationship. People that may have at one time loved one another but now have been drawn far away from each other. “And it hurts all the time / When you don’t return my calls / And you haven’t got the time / To remember how it was.” It’s beautifully tragic and all it builds up for the final verse which transitions into the next track “Helicopter” so well. 

There is one aspect of the instrumentation of this album that stands out the most, the drums. When Geahlen was telling me of her thoughts on the album, she pointed out the drums standing out the most for her when it came to the instrumentation. Steece man leaned towards the drums as well, of course for obvious reasons considering he is a drummer too. 

The GOAT of Bloc Party, former drummer Matt Tong, none of their other drummers will ever be quite like him (Gigwise)

Steece voiced his thoughts on the drumming, “the punchiness and the rawness of his drumming. It really does stand out to a listener usually who might just zone out drums and really focus on the lyrics or the cool guitar riff”. 

The drums are one of the most underrated instruments when it comes to music. Most people don’t really pay any mind to the drums and yet without them, songs would not sound or feel the same at all. In the case of Silent Alarm the songs were molded around the drumbeat first set by Tong, then working off that the guitar work could come in and bass as well.

This way the instruments create this very cohesive listening experience. Silent Alarm as an album has some of my favorite drumming of all time. From the fast paced drumming in “Helicopter” to the moody and brilliant buildup of “Positive Tension”.

Silent Alarm is one of my favorite debut albums of all time but there is one reason why I always recommend people to listen to it. It’s for the drums. Those drums are the first thing to grab me when it comes to this album and through subsequent listens I got more and more attached to other aspects of it.

From constantly changing guitar sound, whether its frantic or mournful or thoughtful. To Okereke’s vocals, that at first may be grating for some listeners, that compliments everything else to really give that teen vibe to the songs. Maybe, that is why me and Steece found ourselves so enchanted by this album because it was something we could relate to considering the point we are at in our lives.

Russell Lissack the lead guitarist for Bloc Party comes up with simplistic and yet hard hitting guitar riffs on this album. (ONS/PA Photos)

“Turning away from the light / Becoming adult / Turning into my self”, Okereke wails in the chorus for “Banquet. His vocals and lyrics range from being melancholic to desperate to inspiring, the range of emotions that the group as whole are able to pull out in their music is astounding.

“You’re really experiencing it all around you. Whenever I’ve been able to just listen to the album, headphones on wherever and really just zone out.” That’s why music is so powerful because it can draw you out of wherever you are at and it can take you someplace better.

I would recommend listening to this album while walking the hallways right after the final bell rings as everyone hurries to leave. In the end I would have to give this album a solid Billy Corgan vocal treatment/10.

As always I’m looking for new music to try out, so if you think I’ll like something then recommend it to me. And if you disagree with my thoughts on this album or just want to talk about it then talk about it with me or at the very least someone else. Art survives through discussions like this one.