Once every so often, a band releases a record that is so radically different from its previous efforts that comparison is unavoidable. “A Weekend in the City,” last month’s sophomore release from London rockers Bloc Party, is unmistakably such a record.
Fueled by the powerfully pleading vocals of singer/guitarist Kele Okereke, “Weekend in the City” combines the driving momentum of the band’s debut, “Silent Alarm,” with an assault of computer-generated sounds, resulting in an album infinitely richer in atmospheric and emotional depth than its predecessor.
“We adopted certain recording techniques which we hadn’t really thought about before,” Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong says. “There was a lot more use of computers and a lot more writing in the studio this time around.”
While the approach adds much to the band’s reach, it also calls upon its members to rise to certain challenges during live performances. Kicking off a North American tour this week, Bloc Party will show off its new direction Saturday night in San Francisco.
“It’s all about evolution. I was a little bit reticent at times with regards to how the new stuff was developing, but by the same token, it’s my job to learn new things,” says Tong, who, for the first time, finds himself drumming against a backing audio track. “It’s something I’ve never had to do before. … It’s scary, you just gotta hold your breath and jump in there. There’s nothing you can do once you start the song, you just gotta go with it.”
Logistical challenges aside, the real success of “Weekend in the City” lies beyond its experimentation with a fresh approach to songwriting. Inspired by what Okereke has called “the living noise of a metropolis,” the sonic elements of the record (including the efforts of guitarist Russell Lissack and bassist Gordon Moakes) all bend toward an aesthetic that is at once intensely tangible and subjective.
But don’t count on the band to stop growing here. Tong says, “I guess I’m proud that we managed to do something that was a little different. I still don’t think we’ve made good on our promise yet. We’re proud of [“Weekend in the City”], but with the benefit of hindsight, I think this record will come to be regarded as some kind of middle ground between [now and] whatever happens next.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Concourse at SF Design Center, 620 7th St., San Francisco
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com