Whoever it was at NME who wrote, "As vital as The Clash in '77, as sinister as The Specials in '82," as touted on the disc's cover-sticker, got Silent Alarm dead right. Because if nothing else, London's Bloc Party is about hyperbole. Hyperbolic guitars -- too, too trebly; too, too loud; too, too everything -- careen over hyperbolic drums straight into hyperbolic vocal-cord wailings and whinings about hyperbolic things. Like on "Pioneers," where singer Kele Okereke blurts "We promised the world we'd tame it / what were we hoping for" before the mantra-repeated youthful demand, "We will not be the last ..." It's just the kind of shit that Bono gets spit-and-roasted for these days, but back in '81, people loved it coming from a skinny Mick kid with no money and a dodgy hairstyle.
No doubt that 2005 is the year the latest British invasion comes to fruition -- the class of '04 (Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, etc.) is not only mop-toppish, it's actually pretty good. But in several ways, Bloc Party has already conquered America -- not musically so much as with the British concept of music media. Because Bloc Party isn't just about hyperbole musically -- the entire idea of Bloc Party is that they are conquerors; they are The New ______ (U2, Stone Roses, Blur, Coldplay -- based on your demographic), and the band's existence depends on that state of being. It's a band that clutches its next-big-thing-ness like a John Wayne sheriff's badge: Who wants to test?
Which isn't to say that Silent Alarm isn't a vital, sinister, beautiful, possibly even brilliant album. In fact, it's more than that -- it's frantic, physical, exciting and optimistic in ways that rock music, and particularly "indie" rock music, has forgotten how to be lately. Go no further than "Helicopter," the second track, and you've found Bloc Party equaling its forefathers: If Blur ever made a track more demanding, furious and cutting as "Helicopter," they never released it. "Positive Tension" makes other Gang-of-Four-alikes faint; "Blue Light" will get staunch indie arm-crossers busting out the Bics; "This Modern Love" might prove the most touchingly manic song-length crescendo of the oughts.
Bloc Party is audibly hurtling towards oblivion -- no band can keep up these levels of musical caffeination for long. But more immediately, one can't help wondering if The Strokes and The Stone Roses are chuckling beneath their piles of money. Has America achieved that NME level of indie-pop hype, where even the best of bands can't survive the synergy? Bloc Party will certainly be the test: Has any band since The Strokes achieved such bizarre quantities of pre-album-release press? We've seen for decades what it does in Britain: "You were the first to have that Frankie Goes to Hollywood album -- and you were the first to realize they were shite!"
Personally, I'm all in favor of "welcome to the big time, now get the fuck out" pop stardom -- abandoning the languishing cult-of-genius for the exciting cult-of-three-brilliant-songs. But methinks that Bloc Party hopes for something a little longer lasting, in which case, the talent's there. But so's the over-the-top.