Bloc Party: God Bless Bloc Party [DVD]

Bloc Party

Drafting basketball players right out of high school is a big problem for the NBA right now. Such youths may have the natural skills to compete on the court with men, but — more often than not — they do not yet have the maturity or basketball smarts to make an immediate impact in the league. Everybody focuses intently upon each particular player’s potential, which may be great indeed. Once management realizes that a poor kid can’t deliver right away, however, disappointment quickly sets in. It’s far better to let talent grow and adapt outside the glare of the spotlight, instead. And much the same thing can be said about Bloc Party, at least based upon the way this new band is studied so microscopically here. It’s like staring at a flower growing and expecting to see colorful pedals right away, as with time lapse photography. It just doesn’t happen that way. Growth takes time, and lots of it.

Bloc Party’s debut Silent Alarm CD marked this British band as one to keep an eye on. Short-dreadlocked vocalist Kele Okereke is a man with a mission, and one that writes excellent songs. Some of these, such as “Price of Gas” and “Helicopter”, touch upon relevant social/political subject matters. This material is performed enthusiastically, as if Bloc Party still has something to prove. Both during its concert section, and interspersed throughout the documentary portion, this quartet shows it can consistently pull off its material live.

The main trouble with God Bless Bloc Party is that it focuses on the group much too intently, far too soon. Granted, it’s essential that new bands arrive accompanied with biographies that explain a bit about who they are and how they got here. It’s only after a few thousand road miles, however, that a group’s documentary is truly insightful. Music fans have great fun comparing and contrasting various albums, examining — for instance — how one pivotal work might differ from the others. But with only on disc under its belt, Bloc Party has no need for such lengthy discussion. To its credit, this DVD follows the outfit during its first trek through Los Angeles, and it never gets old watching Brits acclimating themselves to the West Coast. Still, we don’t get to hear too many personal reflections from the Bloc Party folks about their initial reactions to the whole LA lifestyle. One exception to this rule is a scene where the group’s vehicle pulls alongside a pair of locals that are bumping hip-hop music at full blast from their car. The looks on Bloc Party’s faces are priceless.

The overall flow of this disc’s documentary is particularly problematic. One is left with the overriding impression that it was assembled haphazardly. Performance clips alternate with interviews, yet without any particular rhyme or reason. It would have been far better, for instance, to have made it build chronologically: Follow the group from England to America, then from the hotel room to the various press functions, then ultimately to the concert stage. At least there would have been a little consistency holding it all together.

This project provides sparse new information about the band. It appears as if the camera was merely eves dropping in on various band interviews throughout the day. None of these various writers are introduced to the audience, for instance. They are people with names, right? Nevertheless, this tactic may have been for the best, because few of these interview questions are worth remembering. At one point, Okereke is quizzed about his stuttering problem. Just what does that have to do with his art? Elsewhere, he is asked about his first experiences as a songwriter, but his answer is far from enlightening.

Whenever the band is caught on stage, Okereke is always a fascinating figure to watch. It’s evidenced here that this band has already formed a close bond with its audience. During the documentary, filmmakers interview folks that are killing time in line and waiting for the El Rey Theatre Bloc Party show. Ironically, one of these “intelligent” fans tells us she’s a stripper that traveled all the way from Las Vegas to experience her favorite band live. Wow, even hot chicks dig Bloc Party!

As with most athletic talent, it takes time to develop a true musical superstar. Checking back with Bloc Party in, say, five years from now, might well be an eye-opening revelation. But for now, it amounts to little more than premature evaluation.

RATING 6 / 10
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.