It seems just a minute ago that Bloc Party released ‘Silent Alarm’, doesn’t it? Everyone surely remembers their first time experiencing those spiky riffs in crystal-clear resolution, and Matt Tong’s odd, syncopated grooves pummeling forth like it was yesterday. The moment that Kele Okereke’s raw, ever-so-slightly menacing vocals burst into life on the opening track, it felt like Bloc Party had taken a-hold of a tired scene, and shaken it alive again.
Over the next ten years following ‘Silent Alarm’, bands like Foals and Tall Ships emerged, their stuttering mathy foundations sharing a sort of genealogy with Bloc Party’s debut. Without ‘Like Eating Glass’, could ‘Cassius’ exist with the same cock-sure, spiny swagger? Listen to a song like T=0 and you can almost see Bloc Party’s lead guitarist Russell Lissack nodding in approval from the wings.
The math-rock scene has come into its own over the last ten years, even spawning a dedicated festival, ArcTanGent. Tangled Hair, This Town Needs Guns, &U&I and countless other bands have found their feet, but would they exist in quite the same way had they not listened to ‘Silent Alarm’? Most probably not.
With ‘Silent Alarm’ turning the big 1-0 this month, here’s Matt Parker from math-rock scene staples Tall Ships, speaking to DIY about what ‘Silent Alarm’ means to him.
“There are albums that have changed my life but there are very few I can say were a soundtrack to it.
‘Silent Alarm’ came as a well-needed detour away from the twiddly indie bands that were smothering the radio 10 years ago. It had a snotty punk feel about it. Everything seemed lo-fi, but so beautifully crafted. It appealed to the mass listeners, but also pricked the ears of the musos who for an eternity had been looking for a way to make a massive commercial album, while retaining the raw energy of a live band.
The beauty of ‘Silent Alarm’ is the way in which it translated across all the platforms; most indie bands can only dream of that. It made anthemic monsters out of lines that were screamed in unison by thousands at every festival, scratching guitar riffs that goaded mosh pits in venues on the live circuit, and slick pop songs that caused mass stampedes as rock kids rushed to the dance floor at discos.
I remember my friends and I first hearing ‘Banquet’ and we were like ‘what is this?’ As a kid who grew up listening to punk, Motown and 80’s pop, it almost felt like this song had been crafted for me. It instantly sends me back to the sticky floors, and cigarette smoke-filled rooms and sweaty mirrors of [nightclub] Gonzo’s in my hometown of Worcester. Looking back it was pretty horrible and no place for courting a lady. However, somehow, this song would turn a dirty shit-bag grunge kid into the sexiest groove machine you had ever seen.
This album may be 10 years old but for the teens of 2005 it gave us the soundtrack to love, lust, drugs, alcohol and a future that we didn’t need to think about yet. On the road we listen to a lot of new music, but every so often someone will put ‘Silent Alarm’ on and there’s an eerie silence. There’s a quiet confidence in knowing that everyone is thinking ‘the next 45-minutes will be alright.’’