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Bloc Party and Menomena @ The Hollywood Palladium, 4/15/09
Photo by Sandra Vahtel/LAist
Hailing from the great Northwest, experimental indie rockers Menomena took the stage before a sold out crowd at the Palladium on Wednesday in support of their latest album Friend and Foe. Having never seen these guys before, I was really excited to see whether or not they could pull off their famed experimental hooks on stage. This band has made their name by writing albums of chaotic creativity. Therefore, I thought, surely even if the music was bad it wouldn't be dull.
I was mistaken. The resulting performance was a real disappointment. The giant organ muffled their otherworldly harmonies, the drummer kept a fabulously tepid tempo on the skins, and I could have sworn that the lead singer fell a sleep a number of times at the microphone. The ennui rippled through the crowd, and people began side conversations which further destroyed the sound. With the exception of one young couple, who thought the melody was worthy of a tango through the crowd, most people just turned around and headed back to the bar. The last number contained a saxophone solo that would have only been appropriate at a funeral. Now I don't know if they had taken too many Valium or hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before, but it seemed like only a great bolt of electricity could get these guys going. Unfortunately lightning refused to strike inside the Palladium, and I had left my taser at home.
Surrounded by red flashing honeycomb lights, London's own Bloc Party took the stage before an adoring crowd. The dashing lead singer, Kele Okereke announced that he was really pleased to be back in Los Angeles before launching into One Month Off off their third album Intimacy. Behind Okereke, the rest of the musicians broke out into what seemed to be a civilized chaos.
Bloc Party's music often sounds like an epic struggle between the lead guitarist and the synthesizer or guitar versus robot if you will. Each one seems to be trying to out do the other and capture your attention. Drummer, Matt Tung, laid the playing field with his steady rhythm, while Okereke's voice refereed each song giving each instrument it's chance to shine. Part garage rock, part electro pop, the result has created a sound that is unmistakably theirs. Whenever one of their songs come on the radio, you instantly know that it's Bloc Party. That being said, their really interesting stuff is when they step outside that box and change things up (examples of which include So Here We Are and This Modern Love off of their debut album Silent Alarm.)
It is hard to believe that it's been four years since their debut record Silent Alarm hit the stores, making them an overnight smash. Their two subsequent albums seem to be trying to recreate the charm of their debut. The result has been that Bloc Party has failed to really try new things and expand their sound. They are very good and making catchy electronic dance rock, but most of their songs sound exactly like each other. Their music has stagnated, so much so that they felt the need to re-release their latest album remixed and re-imagined by other people. Perhaps after releasing a new album every two years since 2005, Bloc Party should go on a spiritual journey and rethink their sound. Take a break, guys. Get some perspective. Go on safari in Africa, become a lumberjack in Canada, or a gogo dancer in Rio, then come back and write a new album. Imagination can only make you stronger.