“Remember Bloc Party everybody? Don’t forget about Bloc Party. Remember Silent Alarm? Please don’t forget about Silent Alarm.” Well, now, just months after its release, those crazy nuts at Vice have provided us with a sonorous reminder of Bloc Party’s “stunning debut”. Really, this whole affair reeks of a marketing brainstorm. “How do we keep The Party alive in the consciousness of the modern hipster elite?” Desperately searching for distinction in the dance rock dustup, this is the answer the committee came up with — a remix album. A track for track “reinvention” of Silent Alarm at the hands of such sonicticians as M83, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, DFA 1979 and Mogwai.
Whether or not Silent Alarm is deserving of such a tribute/scheme is definitely up for debate. Leagues more captivating than Franz Ferdinand and centuries more vital than Hot Fuss, Bloc Party’s debut is definitely a solid one. But I don’t know if any album should be loaded for such scrutiny, especially when it’s hardly been given a year to sink into our consciousness. That being said, this is the age of downloading, indie-rock dance parties, and ADD. And the boys say, “Bring on the remix!” So if you’ve already worshipped the original invention to smithereens and your iPod party is lacking the newest, most obscure hitbot, then — well, I don’t like you much — and only one question remains. Where Diddy at?
This album comes off about as exciting as the self-proclaimed inventor’s latest business misventure (his schilling for Proactiv notwithstanding). Aside from the contributions from Mogwai and Nick Zinner (guitarist of Yeah Yeah Yeahs), there isn’t much here that builds upon the nervous intensity of the originals. I myself, never did find a dance partner in Silent Alarm though, so I may be out of step with this whole concept of a remix album. What makes Silent Alarm so captivating and vital for me is the overwhelming peril it courts. It’s not a party record. It’s a seizure record. The scraping and clawing of Kele Okereke’s vocals and Russel Lissack’s guitar are so manic that as a result stillness becomes frightening. Like a shitty ceiling fan spinning over your head, you half expect it to crash. And after another day in front of a computer and the ex sleeping beside you, you’re not sure if you care.
The first half of the cuts are defined by slight changes that amount to diminished results. The second side of the album offers some more daring adaptations, but for the most part the originals are given a little too much respect. Death From Above 1979’s remix/cover of “Luno” sounds exactly like it reads – skrunky bass and synths, lumbering drums, et al. It’s no wonder Sebastien Grainger decided to cop Okereke’s vocal style. M83 piece together the most distinct take with “The Pioneers” (that is to say, it now sounds like an M83 song). By the time the hidden track reveals itself, all this navel gazing and high fiving has left the listener cold. Reinvention minus innovation equals alienation. Danger Mouse’s Gray Album, this is not.
No matter your impressions of Silent Alarm, if you value it any, then listening to Silent Alarm Remixed will be difficult. Not because these new versions are jarring or disfigured, they’re just different. Different, it seems, for the sake of being different. Et les filles disent, “Voilà la remixe!” Songs stomp and startle in unfamiliar places and the new tricks aren’t quite charming, or very tricky for that matter.