Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack knew each other through mutual friends in Essex where Kele went to school and Russell lived. They met again at the Reading Festival in 1999 and resolved to start a band together. They wrote together in bedrooms. For months. And months. Slowly, methodically, they got better. In early 2000 they posted an ad for a bass player in the NME, and through that they met Gordon Moakes. Three years and eight drummers later, the band finally came together when they met Matt Tong.
The rest of 2003 was spent building up their gigging muscles. By the time of the Elektrowerkz and Metro shows, Bloc Party were an intense live act.
Into 2004 and Bloc Party were on the march. Shes Hearing Voices, a rumbling, vaguely sinister song, was recorded in their cheap, moldy but special rehearsal space in Acton, west London. Paul Epworth produced their second single, the amphetamined ska-pop of Banquet (released in the UK on Moshi Moshi, and in the US on Dim Mak).
Bloc Party soon signed with Wichita UK, the little East London label with big ideas. They had a dark, brooding, often ferocious sound to scare the parents and remind older siblings of the artier end of New Wave. Melody and energy to inspire the moshpit.
Meanwhile, in July, as the headlines raged, the reviews raved and their third single Little Thoughts dived into the UKs Top 40, Bloc Party nipped off to Copenhagen with Paul Epworth. Destination: Deltalab Studios, home of Junior Senior (oh yes), retro Sixties/Seventies décor, and racks of malfunctioning vintage equipment. Purpose: 22 days to record 15 tracks. Problems: bare mains cables and a kit that wouldnt play ball.
The result of those 22 days in a raw, dangerous setting was Silent Alarm. The album title is taken from a New Scientist article about earthquake morning systems. The band liked the resonance, felt it fitted with the music. A warning, but an ambiguous one. Unrest. Tension. Energy.
Positive Tension is a case in point, a throbbing, techno-flavored epic with huge, Nirvana-style riffing. So Here We Are, a shimmering hit-in-waiting. Opening things, Like Eating Glass, a shouty, wire-y clarion call. Rounding things off, album finale Compliments, a more atmospheric, downbeat, intense track from this upbeat, agit-funk four-piece.
Lets go back a bit, to the ideas and manifestos. Sitting at the heart of Silent Alarm is Pioneers. So says the band, its a warning to those who think they can change the world. Not everyone can, hardly anyone does. Its about talking up your own limitations. Trying to break down the ridiculousness attached to rock bands. If were about anything were about that avoiding cliché, letting ideas stand for themselves.