A Comprehensive Guide To

'A WEEKEND IN THE CITY'

 

 

CONTENTS

 

  1. 'A Weekend In The City': overview
  2. Recording process / timeline
  3. The tracks
  4. The producer

 

1. 'A WEEKEND IN THE CITY' OVERVIEW

 

"'A Weekend in The City' is inspired by lead singer Kele Okereke's interest in what he calls 'the living noise of a metropolis'. On 'Weekend...', the band captures every detail, from the ebullient to the mundane, of daily life in a modern city, and the quiet desolation that suffuses everything from commuting to casual sex, from going out on a Friday night to the long ride home in the early hours of the morning. These are songs desperate to understand the meaning that pulses under the moments of our everyday: they are bursting with tension, paranoia, sadness, love and an intense need for reason as to how city life has become so displacing."

 

1.   Song For Clay (Disappear Here)

2.   Hunting For Witches

3.   Waiting For The 7:18

4.   The Prayer

5.   Uniform

6.   On

7.   Where Is Home?

8.   Kreuzberg

9.   I Still Remember

10. Sunday

11. SRXT

 

Cover photograph: Rut Blees Luxembourg

 

Bloc Party's sophomore album, 'A Weekend In The City', is set for release on February 5th 2007 in the UK, and on the following day in North America. Jacknife Lee is responsible for producing the follow-up to Bloc Party’s debut album, and NME album of the year 2005, 'Silent Alarm', which has sold more than a million copies worldwide. This guide to the album comprehensively documents the history and creative process behind 'A Weekend In The City'. Check back for updated versions!

 

 

2. RECORDING PROCESS / TIMELINE

 

January 2006: Bloc Party went into the studio at the turn of the New Year, beginning 2006 by rehearsing songs and working on three or four new tracks each day. A lot of the new material was written whilst on tour the previous year. They aimed to shortlist around 20 different song ideas for demo. At this point the album was due to be in shops by “September at the latest!”  Asked to sum up the sound of 'Bloc Party Mark Two' in one word, Gordy said "direct", adding that it'd also be "streamlined" and "layered". 

 

February 2006: On Valentine’s day, we were informed that the band were going to choose between Steve Dub or Jacknife Lee to produce their next album, and were going to make the choice based on a demo they'd recorded with each prospective producer. Some potential track names were revealed: 'Hunting For Witches', 'Day One', 'Death Of A Century', 'Blue Moon', 'Waiting For The 7:18', and 'Uniform'. 

 

Gordy described the new direction by saying "...we've retained some of that jerkiness [from Silent Alarm] but we didn't want to do anything that we've already done. There's a lot of gentle stuff, but we don't want to have a gentle record." He hinted that some of the new material would employ electronic processed beats and also added that the band hoped to make a textured record, creating music out of quite difficult sounds.  'Uniform' was billed as a people-pleaser, 'Atonement' as a possible centerpiece of the album and 'Wet' as a brooding, druggy, dancefloor piece that could even feature strings!

 

March 2006: the band set out on a small club tour around England, debuting many new songs for the first time: 'Waiting For The 7:18', 'Hunting For Witches', 'Uniform', 'Wet', 'Blue Moon', 'Atonement', 'Machine', 'It Started In An Afternoon', 'Rhododendrons', 'A Momentary Loss Of Control'…ten new songs over eight gigs! An early favourite was 'Wet' which featured possibly the heart-warming lyric of all time…“you make my tongue loose”.

 

April 2006: A few possible album titles emerged. The first was developed sort of by accident. Kele described the main theme of the new songs as 'Urbanite Relaxation' and this got adopted by the media as a possible album title. Kele admitted: “That's what I'm thinking the title of the album should be, but I've got to speak to the others first really!"  Bootlegs from the club tour and a huge charity gig at the Royal Albert Hall started doing the rounds, which soon spread like wildfire amongst the hardcore Bloc-heads. 

 

Jacknife Lee was then chosen to work on the album, after his production of 'It Started In An Afternoon' was enough to win him the job over Steve Dub (who worked on 'Day One'). Gordy spoke about the selection: "You know the clichés about second albums; for us it has never been a consideration to somehow re-capture the 'magic’ of ‘Silent Alarm'. We want to make a more accomplished, better and different-sounding record. And we've been looking to work with someone who can dig that record out of us, although as much as anything it's about finding someone who you'd want to spend six weeks in an enclosed space with.” 

 

Later in the month, a bootleg of the rare song 'Into The Blue' surfaced. It was written as long ago as the beginning of 2005, but Kele scrapped the title around the time a film of the same name came out. It was the first new song played live after the release of 'Silent Alarm', being premiered at the Magic Stick in Detroit on April 1st 2005. At this time the track was called 'Cells Shaped Like Stars', but it will appear on the new album with the title of 'We Were Lovers'.

 

The next update on the album was the announcement of more new song titles: 'Kreuzberg', 'Cruel', and 'Merge On The Freeway', with the first likely to be about the violent district in Berlin.  Confusion erupted as 'Merge On The Freeway' was now both a song title and a lyric (in the chorus of 'Machine').


A post from Kele on the official Bloc Party fan space “Marshals” brought some inside perspective to the recording process:  “Lyrically a lot of the abstraction has gone, the ideas are clearer and braver.  The new record will not be called 'Urbanite Relaxation', I told a journalist that would be one of the main themes, not the title. After reading 'Society Of The Spectacle' by Guy Debord and 'A Critique Of Everyday Life' by Henry Lefebvre I literally became obsessed with these minute details of everyday life in a modern capitalist society. Commuting, working, drinking, watching time slip by. It's not a dance punk record, that shit has been done to death. Dance punk will not be a noose around our necks. The songs that stand out for me are: 'A Song for Clayton', 'Kreuzberg', 'Sunday', 'Perfect Teens' (formerly 'Machine'), 'Wet', 'Seroxat' and 'England' (formerly 'Blue Moon').  The atmosphere of this next record is going to be dark, we cannot deny that, but if we get it right it will not be aloof, it will be funny, warm and real as well.” 

 

To finish it all off, Kele warned fans not to get too attached to the new live tracks (and their bootlegs) as anything could be overhauled. Playing the song 'templates' live was a way to get the fans to help decide what worked and what didn’t. 

 

May 2006: After an appearance at the Coachella music festival in California, the band settled in at Grouse Lodge Recording Studios in Ireland for initial recording, before moving back home to London for a second stint. 

Interviews revealed that 'Hunting For Witches' was written as a reaction to the media coverage of last year's London bombings and 'Waiting For The 7:18' is Kele's observation of the effects of the working life on his post-college friends. 

 

June 2006: Kele revealed that Bloc Party were about halfway through the recording of their sophomore effort. Another album name was floating about, but 'Sympathy Tranny' was nothing more than a joke, inspired by Nadia, the transsexual Big Brother winner.

He confirmed that the new album would feature the songs 'Waiting For The 7:18', 'Uniform', 'Perfect Teens' (formerly 'Machine'), 'England' (formerly 'Blue Moon'), and 'Song For Clay' (formerly 'Merge On The Freeway' and 'Song For Clayton'). The latter was inspired by the main character of Bret Easton Ellis' novel 'Less Than Zero'. The songs 'Cells Shaped Like Stars' and 'Kreuzberg' were also being considered, but weren't definitely going to be included. Kele mentioned that Bloc Party planned to bring in a string section and guest vocalists to contribute to the album!

 

Kele also started an underground movement which was dubbed the “Amerie Movement”, when he constantly proclaimed his love for her song '1 Thing': "One of my favourite songs of the last ten years. I was literally obsessed with that song. The thing about that song, what I find really inspiring about modern R&B, is it really sounds like it was assembled on the computer, the pickings of samples and building the song around that. There's a sense where it seems to be just stuck together, and that's something that I'm hoping we can try to somehow bring out in the record that we're making. Essentially, yeah, we're a live band, but I'd like to get some bricolage going on." The FBI is currently investigating Kele's connections to Amerie's promotion team.

 

He also stated in a newspaper interview that he wanted to define Bloc Party’s sound, something that was perhaps not clear on 'Silent Alarm': "That was always the intention, to be in a rock band that alluded to more than just the Velvet Underground or Led Zeppelin," he said. "For me, this band is about mixing ideas from contemporary dance music and contemporary R&B and electronica and somehow trying to find a happy medium because that really is a lot of the music that really inspires me. It's not your big rock bands. So with this record I'm trying to make that clearer because I'm not quite sure how clear that was on the first record." 

 

Gordy then listed some special things to look out for on the new album: Matt and Gordy playing drums simultaneously, R'n'B-styled beats, Russell's guitar put through a 'Big Muff' pedal, the sound of a guitar amp being thrown off a first-storey balcony, an unplayable guitar solo, piano, glockenspiel, and strings. Appetites were duly whetted.  

 

July 2006: After a few more shows in the US to debut new songs, Kele made a huge announcement to BlocParty.net by naming the 13 tracks that had been recorded in sessions with Jacknife Lee:  'A Prayer To The Lord', 'England', 'Hunting For Witches', 'It Started In An Afternoon', 'Kreuzberg', 'On', 'Seroxat', 'Song For Clay (Disappear Here)', 'Sunday', 'Uniform', 'Waiting For The 7:18', 'We Were Lovers' and 'Where Is Home?'.  Now we would just have to wait to see which ones would make the cut, as the band hinted that not all of them would make the final cut. 

 

August 2006: Kele revealed the influences for 'A Prayer To The Lord', which was originally called 'The Bolero': Busta Rhymes, and the traditional Bolero dance, which involves stomps and hand claps!  Kele said: "The initial idea came from watching the Busta Rhymes video for 'Touch It', where there are these young majorettes that are going through this kind of cheer pattern. I thought that was one of the most amazing things I'd heard, and I wanted to write a song that revolved around that sort of idea."

 

Later in the month, a good quality demo of 'Song For Clay (Disappear Here)' was posted on the Always New Depths unofficial forum, and subsequently spread like Anchor Butter on toast. The demo was taken from one of the early sessions with Jacknife Lee and hinted at a more experimental sound.  

 

On August 27th, the final album title was reported as 'A Weekend In The City', although this was still unconfirmed. Following that, a one-minute video clip from the recording studio was released on "Marshals" accompanied by a few snippets from 'Waiting For The 7:18'. 

 

October 2006: It was announced via a "Marshals" update from Gordy (including studio pictures) that 'On' would feature strings! Then just days later, the release date of the album was announced. It was bittersweet though, as February 5th 2007 seemed so far away yet at the same time a concrete date was finally reality. 

 

In late October, Bloc Party made their comeback official by announcing the album title and tracklisting, along with a 20 show club tour of the UK & Ireland. The first single would be 'The Prayer' and the boys were rumoured to have filmed a video for 'I Still Remember'. Watch this space, history is yet to write itself…      

 

 

3. THE TRACKS

 

'SONG FOR CLAY (DISAPPEAR HERE)'

 

  • Kele: "I wanted to try and make something that was a really melodramatic-sounding rock song, almost like a Bond theme. Something that sounded really kind of lush. When it kicks in I think it's going to knock some heads off!"  (formerly known as: 'Merge On The Freeway', 'Song For Clayton')

 

'HUNTING FOR WITCHES'

 

  • This intense song begins with the sound of someone twirling through a radio dial before Okereke announces: "I'm sitting on the roof of my home with a shotgun". The angry lyric continues: "The Daily Mail says that the enemy's among us/Stealing our women and taking our jobs".

 

o        Influenced by the terrorist attacks on London's transportation system in July 2005.

 

'WAITING FOR THE 7:18'

 

  • An atmospheric soundscape layered with beautiful lyrics describing Kele’s view on his friends “not-so-beautiful” life after college.  Ends with a refrain of “Let’s drive to Brighton on the weekend” and some soaring tremolo guitars.

 

'THE PRAYER'

 

  • An industrial rhythm and choral sounds open this huge-sounding song, which proceeds through massed backing vocals and some highly-complicated drumming to resolve itself in a very beautiful, synth-sodden conclusion.

 

  • Kele: "With 'The Prayer' the idea was to do something interesting with the rhythm. It's got a real, almost crunk feel to it. I know that's probably gonna frighten people, but it's still us." (formerly known as: 'A Prayer To The Lord', 'The Bolero')

 

'UNIFORM'

 

  • The album centre-piece, this anthem contains three sections that follow each other with an equal amount of surprise.  Nicknamed Bloc Party’s 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by fans.

 

'ON'

 

  • Sexy, cold and druggy, this is several steps on from 'This Modern Love', the 'Silent Alarm' song it most resembles. Okereke sings about "a certain cleanliness and clarity" before adding "you make my tongue loose" over lavish strings and feedback.

 

o        Kele: "It's about the lure of drugs, getting drunk and dancing all night. Whenever I hear it, I completely lose myself." (formerly known as: 'Wet') 

 

'WHERE IS HOME?'

 

  • Features an acapella at beginning and end. (formerly known as: 'Machine', 'Perfect Teens')

 

  • Kele: "[This song] deals with the idea of being a second-generation black person in this country and what identity and allegiance you have."

 

'KREUZBERG'

 

  • Probably about the violent district in Berlin where the annual May Day demonstrations take place.

 

'I STILL REMEMBER'

 

o        Featuring electronically treated vocals which make Okereke sound female, this song sounds as confident and epically uplifting as U2 and boasts a sparklingly catchy guitar line. (formerly known as: 'It Started In An Afternoon')

 

'SUNDAY'

 

  • Will contain both Matt and Gordy drumming simultaneously.

 

'SRXT'

 

  • Album closer. Likely to be about the anti-depressant, Seroxat. (formerly known as: 'Seroxat')

 

LOST SONGS / B-SIDES:

 

  • 'A Momentary Loss Of Control'
  • 'Atonement' - Centred around a breakbeat evocative of The Stone Roses' 'Fools Gold'. Contains a very sparse verse, with the only instruments being Russell's guitar and Kele's vocals against the drums. Has a huge, anthemic chorus.
  • 'Cruel'
  • 'Day One' – recorded with Steve Dub
  • 'Death Of A Century'
  • 'England' - (formerly known as: 'Blue Moon')
  • 'Kids' - Explaining the sound of 'Kids', Gordy revealed: "'Kids' (has) this very disco offbeat in the chorus. It's our song to end punk funk - it's quite euphoric. I always felt that that style wasn't our only sound. But we definitely recognise where four to the floor works".
  • 'Rhododendrons'
  • 'We Were Lovers' - (formerly known as: 'Into The Blue', 'Cells Shaped Like Stars')

 

 

THE PRODUCER

 

Jacknife Lee, aka Garret Lee, was born in Dublin and started making music when he was 14. After four years playing punk rock guitar with Compulsion, Lee began remixing, bootlegging and producing. He has a very impressive CV, having worked with artists such as Run DMC, Eminem, Longview, Badly Drawn Boy, Basement Jaxx, Kasabian, U2, Blur, Missy Elliot, Björk and The Raveonettes. Lee was also the producer of the album that brought Snow Patrol into the limelight, 'Final Straw'.


Compiled by Owen Rees

Information from BLOG PARTY and BlocParty.net originally posted by Jim Lloyd