Bloc Party, A Wake Up Call

I remember when I first heard them. Banquet had just been released and I was forever hanging around New Cross. It was such an exciting time. The Libertines were breaking through. Arcadia seemed real. Intelligence and counterculture were in. Posing and the belief that if a song was " guitar based " it was "alternative " were out.

Suddenly instead of Oasis and Fred Durst, bands were referencing Morrissey, Robert Smith, New Order... Gang of Four. The likes of Starsailer and Travis seemed forever consigned to some distant unrecognisable past. British rock wasn’t plagued by dozens of bands trying to write the next " wonderwall. " Nu metal (unforgivable for its excess) and Emo (think: banality, introversion, an inability to move beyond writing about getting dumped) were in decline. And even those bands that insisted on referencing Oasis and Britpop (The Ordinary Boys, Kasabian) they still did, but they were subversive with it....

In short: Things just seemed so much better, and alright, it took a while for Radio One and everyone else to catch on, but that’s not the point, and not the reason why I am writing either..

Skip to the present and fast-forward to page 31 of this week’s Nme, and Keele Okereke of Bloc Party had this to say:

NME: You seem to be reluctant to talk about your opinions full stop...
Keele: Ive never been that sort of person. I recently went to see Greenday and was really disappointed. They seem to be riding this public sentiment of anti-Americanism. It’s just the emptiest of soundbites - its something we've always been conscious of trying to avoid.
NME: When were you last angry?
Keele: When you are confronted by how blinkered and stupid Western Teenagers are. That makes me angry. I've always got time for people when they stop and ask me questions. It’s when people don't say anything that I get thrown. How are you supposed to act when someone comes up to you and cant stop saying 'oh my God' over and over? I can’t imagine anything worse than being Coldplay size.

There’s just so much to be disappointed with there. For to long punk and by extension " indie " have been plagued by the belief that as soon as you hit the top 10 you have 'sold out,' that playing Wembley is a crime, and that if you ever make it to Top of the Pops, well heck - you cant have been '4 Real' and Keele (someone who really should know better) seems unable to escape from this.

Like Eating Glass- Bloc Party ponder Sheraz's wake up call

David Bowie, The Manics, The Cure - all of these are example of artists who never stepped back from their artistic vision but became huge. For them, selling records was just an extension of being good, and that’s something that today’s bands should take note of.

To me, Bloc Party represent everything that I love about music: Art school, Sensitive, Radical - but most of all their ability to reinvent, to not just regurgitate, but to take what’s come before them and to assimilate it into something 'new' without giving into pretentiousness. And if lots of people " get it " then that’s got to be a good thing...

Keele however seems unable to get to grips with that.

The "stupid blinkered teens" that he refers to are just like he was at 14, young and looking for inspiration... surely he must realise that by slagging of people who these kids hold dear, he is in effect alienating new (and present) fans, and just creating another pointless feud.

But more then that. Greenday simply don’t deserve to be put down.

Looking at things from a UK-centric perspective it’s easy to loose sight of just how much of a risk Greenday took with their last album. At a time when America was divided and at a time when all people expected of Greenday were songs about masturbation and television they decided to make their " London Calling " - It was a move that many mocked them for, but its' also one for which they should be applauded.

It simply wasn’t the case that by 'riding a wave of anti Americanism' Green day were set to hit the big time again. It just wasn’t as straight forward at that. Look at Sum 41. They tried to be political but failed to take their audience with them.

Greenday however HAVE.

And ok, their lyrics may not be " deep " but that’s not the point, they steer people in the right direction and helped make politics " cool " - and NO that isn’t a bad thing. They reached people who wouldn't normaly care, and if that means that even a few people get turned onto the likes of N.Chomsky and that the inaccessible is now within reach - Greenday have done their bit....

And that is exactly what the current wave of new British bands need to do. “ Do their bit ” To be about more then just a collection of chord changes and poses. There is no point in preaching to the converted, and by being afraid of success, and intimidated by those who have made it – Bloc party look set to be the very thing they always claimed to be opposed to – a band forever obsessed with image, with being cool, with having the “right” kind of fans…. Not able to move beyond subculture and into meaning something more..

The entire scene just seems on the verge of implosion, the Pete Dorethy led 'urch revolution' (NME circa 2003) has descended into cocaine and farce, Hope of the States proved unable to deliver, The Ordinary Boys have gone all ska... and Franz, well their lack of revolutionary bite means they are unlikely to achieve anything worthwhile….

So come on Bloc Party, a nation and its hopes depend on you.

Sheraz Qureshi

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