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Private party of four 

British Bloc Party is shy but doesn't shy from post-punk immediacy

Bloc Party

British post-modern art-punk quartet Bloc Party is getting away with something some would consider audacious in these celebrity-obsessed times. Turn on MTV'S "My Super Sweet 16" or CBS' "Rock Star: INXS" and you'll be inundated with children and adults obsessed with the cult of personality. But with its debut full-length, Silent Alarm, and its recent track-by-track complement, Silent Alarm Remixed, Bloc Party is navigating musical adolescence and contemporary relevance commendably while its members remain relatively nondescript.

"If anything, Silent Alarm was a record about growing up and acceptance of things you need to change and that some things you can't change, but not looking to the media, etc., for validation," says amiable but succinct drummer Matt Tong by phone. "We're actually really private people and realize it's often pointless for bands to sound off publicly because it often gets to the point of neglect of what they were doing musically. We prefer to put all of ourselves into what we do musically ... capturing and battling quiet desperation and repressed frustrations."

Indeed, Silent Alarm is an album for the verklempt. Ambitious angularities with narrowed eyes and wide-mouthed yelps are fraught with officious persons and politics, as well as celebratory counterbalance. If Bloc Party was part of a vintage Mike Myers-era "Saturday Night Live" skit, we might see Myers' Jewish talk show host Linda Richman throw Bloc Party's album title out as a topic of "Coffee Talk": "Silent Alarm -- hardly silent yet thoroughly alarming? Talk amongst yourselves!"

"It was important to us to make an album that was consistent," says Tong. "Mix tapes are beneficial for long car rides, to educate friends and impress the opposite sex, but we didn't want a collective of singles. We wanted a record to be played as a whole, not something with highlights and filler."

But Silent Alarm Remixed proves that all of Bloc Party's compositions are single ready, and it's not a bad thing. Remixed plates ready-made original elements on top of new electro and glitchy arrangements. This makes the rare remix album that doesn't obliterate the originals by reducing them to ad nauseum hooks but instead complements each and every track's already well-scripted post-punk traditions.

The original Silent Alarm songs, however, while plenty nuanced, appeal more based on their immediacy and bluntness. It's the kind of music where, especially hearing it live, you want to lean forward as close as possible to the stage, not because you want to be closer to the band's rather aloof members, but because you want to be closer to the music's familiar earnestness.

You place faith, based on the music, that Bloc Party shares with you some universal stings from governments and girls. You all have misplaced your keys coming back from the neighborhood pub where you yelled at Fox News and drowned your sorrows in the jukebox because a girl kept your copy of the first Gang of Four LP after a polluted romance. Without forcing an image or ideals, Bloc Party still offers indie kids familiar, timely themes as well as theme songs.

"I think what's perhaps most important for Bloc Party is we're not afraid to renew ideas and change them," says Tong while discussing Bloc Party's most overt reference points, including the Cure, Blur, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and the aforementioned Gang of Four. "Just because something has been around doesn't make it not important. Much like you can complain about the state of the world and constantly compare it to what we had before or you can realize that there are things that are bad now but they have always been bad, while some things are good that have been good, too."

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