U.K. band explores urban landscape on latest album
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London was a scary and oppressive place for Gordon Moakes when he first moved there.
But the Bloc Party bassist and Milton Keynes, England native says the capital always has something going on, a principal theme in the London-based dance-rockers’ second full-length opus A Weekend In The City. Entering at No. 2 on the U.K. Charts, the album guides us through a couple of days in Britain’s biggest metropolis. Critics have called Weekend much darker and politically charged than previous work, but Moakes puts this down to the multicultural, and often volatile, urban world the band explores.
“It came about through investigating some of the things that (lead singer) Kele (Okereke) wanted to investigate, being the city and what people do to relax in the city,” Moakes says. “Before you know it, you’ve delved into quite a dark world I think. There are some light tones to it as well. It’s a sort of yin and yang, I suppose.”
The disc’s lush, sweeping tones and energetic grooves belie its serious reflections, from discrimination in Where Is Home? — inspired by the racially motivated murder of Okereke’s cousin — to first stateside single I Still Remember, about a gay man’s unrequited love (Okereke recently came out to little fanfare, but claims the song is not autobiographical.). Moakes says even though the message is clearer and more socially aware, Bloc Party doesn’t plan on breaking out the soapboxes.
“Out of the first record we were told we wrote these political songs that we didn’t feel we really had,” he says. “Going back and analyzing it, it’s kind of ambiguous really. So, it came partly out of that. But we’re never going to be the kind of band that does any sort of preaching or do big awareness campaigns for anything. We’re not like that. This is the personal view of someone looking out into the world and seeing what’s there rather than being dogmatic.”
Moakes says the band’s current focus is on winning North Americans over, where they’ve been modestly received compared to Godzilla-sized popularity at home. Weekend hit the US Top Twenty at No. 12, a big improvement from peaking at No. 144 with Silent Alarm. But Moakes says the tour will tell the tale of their success on this side of the pond.
“The thing with North America is that you don’t just get the big splash and everyone knows who you are. You have to work and get in front of people and make yourself available,” he says. “It’s very different. I enjoy it more here, to be honest, even though the travel is harder. I’m very much English, but I do like the grandeur of the place.”