September 22, 2005

Bloc Party: Silent Alarm Remixed

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In theory, the idea of a remix is fascinating: the concept that a second party can reinvent and put their stamp on a song, which is ostensibly someone else’s creation. But in practice, can it really be pulled off? Luckily, Bloc Party has the right idea and a near-perfect execution: Take their breakout album, Silent Alarm and grab a bunch of bands with equal amounts of indie cred (Mogwai, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ladytron) and have them put their personal spins on it. Luckily for the contributors here, the foundation set by the debut album is so strong the possibilities for expansion, renovation and improvement are endless.

Despite the accessibility and inherent catchiness of Alarm, Remixes offers no easy answers. The remixes take the more formulaic elements of any strong indie rock band – jangly choruses, strong rhythm section, tight hooks – and make them a little more abstract, a little less accessible, a little less, well, Bloc Party.

Considering Remixes is a collection of highly disparate artists, it’s a pleasant surprise that all this material works so well together. Some of the tracks even sound better as remixes, like the Death From Above 1979 cut “Luno,” which, in all fairness, is really a cover (it’s performed by the duo of DFA79). It’s a glorious, furious mash of whacked-out, sludgy-yet-fuzzy bass, creepy synth lines and Sebastien Granger’s trademark manic drum playing. Complete with spooky dog howls and frenzied, staccato yelpings, “Helicopter,” as remixed by NJ Whitey, is a perfect electronic deconstruction of the original tune. With the help of Dave P. and Adam Sparkles, “This Modern Love” instantly becomes a new-wave classic, punctured with happy-go-lucky handclaps and a keyboard riff straight out of the ’80s.

On the other end of the energy spectrum, Nick Zinner’s (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame) melancholic interpretation of closing track “Compliments” is deeply wistful and achingly beautiful. Singer Kele Okereke’s fuzzed out whisperings are backed by soaring synth and persistent snares. With the dirge-like “The Pioneers,” M83 adds a haunting string section and completely eliminates all percussion, resulting in a bleak, sparse soundscape not unlike the Kronos Quartet (or M83 themselves).

Not all songs work though, like the overly repetitious and mechanical propulsion of “Like Eating Glass” (remixed by the usually reliable Ladytron) or the grating “She’s Hearing Voices.” But most do. Bloc Party is a young band, and a remixed album so early on seems simultaneously premature and innovative. Will this album make fans return to their old favorite, Silent Alarm, or will they be inspired to explore the lesser known contributors, like the divinely talented M83 and Four Tet? It just might do both.

Archived article by Natasha Pickowicz
Sun Contributor