Bloc Party has always seemed to take a liking to short releases. The Nextwave Sessions marks the sixth EP in the group’s discography, and they’ve never released an album containing more than 13 tracks. The succinct releases cut down on the filler and fixate the attention to the records that matter. The Nextwave Sessions presents five new Bloc Party tracks that the band wanted you to hear. Some of these tracks are songs that the band has been performing live for months now, but this EP is the first opportunity to hear the studio recordings in all their crispy clean glory.
The EP opens with the upbeat, radio friendly “Ratchet”. The opening cut holds a close sonic connection to Bloc Party’s previous album Four. Lead vocalist Kele Okereke brings a little hip-hop influence to the track, melodically rapping the lyrics and reciting lines that you might expect to hear from a Curren$y or Action Bronson track: “And tell your bitch to get off my shit / Smoking on that homegrown / You know I keep it on point.” Kele’s British accent provides an added punch to the delivery, though when combined with his occasional rapid flare of words it can be easy to miss what he’s saying (or at least for my American ears).
It doesn’t take long for Bloc Party to slow things down. The slow drums and pulsating bass of “Obscene” creates a sharp contrast between tracks one and two of The Nextwave Sessions. “Obscene” drops the traditional instrumentation in favor of an electronic vibe focusing on synthesizers. The result is an okay, somewhat forgettable slow ballad. The third song, “French Exit” quickens the pace once again, and keeps things changing up with a ditch of the electronics as the four band members pick their guitars/drumsticks back up. This is a return of the “math rock” sound that is sometimes used in conjunction with the band’s 2005 debut, Silent Alarm.
The final two tracks may very well be the high point of The Nextwave Sessions, ending things on a strong note. “Montreal”, the fourth track continues the vacillating game of jumping from upbeat to slowed down. It’s very similar to “Obscene” in that it focuses on synthesizers and pushes guitars to the background. Another slow ballad, “Montreal” succeeds where “Obscene” stumbled. Kele delivers a much more emotional performance without feeling dishonest. The elegantly worked synths pair with a simple drum pattern to work in harmony with the emotion of Kele’s voice and lyrics.
The first easy transition from song to song occurs between tracks four and five. “Children of the Future” continues the laid back vibe to round off the album, and is a great choice to do so. The song seems a bit out of character for Bloc Party, who aren’t usually a band to try and deliver a broad message in a serious tone through their music, but they do it here and manage to pull it off. As the title suggests, the song is a call out to the next generation, reminding them that they are blossoming into the center stage and should learn from the mistakes of past generations. It may be a little gushy for some, but the drowning vocals and soft guitar riff make “Children of the Future” feel like it came from the heart and serves as a fitting closure to the five-track EP.
The Nextwave Sessions has a limited amount of time to make an impression and set a tone. Rather than try to establish a mood, Bloc Party instead keeps the listener on his or her toes by switching styles and recording techniques from song to song. As it should, The Nextwave Sessions delivers on the mentality of quality over quantity. The EP offers five respectable new songs from the British indie rockers. With the band announcing that they’ll be taking an indefinite hiatus after this EP, hopefully this won’t be the last we see of the group together.