Bloc Party, Ponys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bloc Party, Ponys

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Despite the vaguely leftist connotations of their name, London's Bloc Party sound much less Gang of Four-damaged than some of their stateside counterparts. Substituting terse quasi-anthemic pop hooks for angular clutter, they caught the attention of critics while opening for Franz Ferdinand on a UK tour in 2003; that led to a string of singles, collected on a self-titled EP last year, that wouldn't sound out of place next to 90s Too Pure agitpop acts like Moonshake and Long Fin Killie. As a vocalist, Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos mostly gets by on lugubriousness, but Bloc Party's Kele Okereke actually knows how to sing and, more satisfying, when not to: his yelping Sprechstimme is a nice change from his otherwise choral beltings, which keep reminding me of the guy from the Outfield. On early B sides like "The Answer," Okereke's vocals clash with smeary neodisco drums, call-and-response guitar twang, and a visceral bass line that delivers like a 3 AM pot messenger. It's an irresistible mix, but hearing Bloc Party on singles got me in the habit of catching them in small, bright bursts; their debut album, Silent Alarm (Vice), is half-filled with remakes of early songs, and their novelty wanes a bit at LP length. Still, tracks like "Blue Light" equal "The Answer" in showcasing the band's great trick of withholding the powerhouse hook until the tail end of the song.

Openers the Ponys will release their second album, Celebration Castle (In the Red), in May. On their Jim Diamond-produced debut they sounded like they'd been hired by the mayor to demolish a decrepit garage with sheer wattage; in contrast, on the Steve Albini-recorded Celebration Castle you can hear all the instruments a bit too clearly, to the detriment of their blown-out aesthetic. But their live presence can't be fucked with--stake out a spot in front of one of their amps and stay there. Disc Jockey CB opens, Pit Er Pat plays second. Thu 3/31, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $13, 18+.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Sargeant.

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