Bloc Party very quietly released its third studio album digitally in August, a full two months before physical copies arrived in stores. The lack of fanfare surrounding this album is peculiar, especially because Intimacy is about as far from subdued as it gets—and significantly better than the U.K. group’s last effort, 2007’s A Weekend in the City. Twitching electro touches, meaty programmed beats and jagged guitar riffs dominate, twisting Bloc Party’s normally straightforward rock into a dizzying pastiche of samples, rhythms and discotheque bangers.
Mournful reverb drenches Kele Okereke’s vocals on the dark-wave synth-pop highlight “Better Than Heaven,” while “Ares” feel like The Streets’ Mike Skinner brawling with The Chemical Brothers, thanks to clanking big beats, metallic keyboards and hiccupping vocals. Better yet is the fantastic “One Month Off,” which resurrects Ministry circa “Stigmata,” thanks to some corrugated guitars and industrial rhythmic jackhammering, and the delicate “Signs,” whose ice-crystal strings and percussion match Okereke’s delicate croon.
Intimacy occasionally feels like it’s overcompensating for the pristine (and overly mannered) synth textures and production on City. “Mercury” in particular is sensory overload, what with its frantic horns, stuttering lyrics and rude rhythms. These moments stick out only because Bloc Party sounds so reinvigorated about its new direction on the rest of the disc.