Thursday, February 8

Bloc Party: Marketing 2.0

The new Bloc Party album has been bending my brain for the past couple of days. I was planning to write some thoughts about it, but then I found myself in the position of almost totally agreeing (he's a little overly harsh towards the end) with Nitsuh Abebe's Pitchfork review. Reading other reviews and comments, I get the feeling people don't know quite how to take the album. And it is indeed a strange album. I know it's not what I was expecting, and I can only imagine it's not what many fans wanted. Right now, I'm more fascinated by the album's existence than by the music itself. What could have been going through their head when they wrote and recorded this album? If the lyrics are anything to go by, there's nothing calculated, pretentious, or cynical here. They are just a band that's, you know, actually trying very hard. It's a little disarming.

Here's what I want to make clear: Bloc Party went and made a contemporary prog album. Okay, maybe I'm using the p-word for shock value--let's at least agree to call it art rock. It's a concept album with a narrative arc. The songs have rhythmic change-ups and hyper drumming. There's all manner of vocal effects, choirs, and cut-ups. With the exception of "I Still Remember," there's really no hooky pop songs. And there's zappy laser sounds!

The only way they could have made the album more prog would have been to release a double album. Oh, wait, they actually did. You see, the most interesting thing about A Weekend In The City for me right now isn't the music, it's the marketing and release strategy. If you do a little hunting, you will discover no less than eleven(!) non-album tracks floating around the internet. These extras are comprised of b-sides and various retailer and download shop exclusives. There's nothing unusual about a band recording a bunch of extra tracks to eventually use as single b-sides. What is unusual is for all those tracks to appear at once. And these are not throwaway demos or noodly instrumentals, but completed songs that essentially make up an entire second album.

Think about this for a minute. This isn't a case of a record label being forced to deal with the internet and so-called leaked tracks. This is total marketing genius, and the first time I've seen anyone truly leverage (manipulate?) the contemporary reality of downloading, and MP3 blogs in particular. Certainly the people involved are aware of both Hype Machine and the fact that no matter how "exclusive" these extra tracks supposedly are, they will all end up online within a couple of days. I truly believe this entire scheme is intentional; they have purposefully released two albums. Right now bloggers are tripping over themselves to be the first to collect and post all the extra songs. It's like an internet scavenger hunt. Gotta catch 'em all! And it's far better promotion than the predictability of bloggers posting tracks from the regular album. This second album has already been unofficially named Another Weekend In The City, and someone has made cover art for it. But of course the best part is that people are already claiming to like this virtual album more than the proper album. That's not hard to understand, considering most of the extra tracks are much closer in sound to Silent Alarm. All that's left to do now is sit back and wait for the inevitable CD release of this bonus album. I wonder if it'll have any bonus tracks.


Michael said...

And I totally bought into it and grabbed most of them. Haven't listened to one yet.

Bruce said...


I have to admit that while I really admire what they're doing on the proper album, I am actually enjoying the b-sides more at this point.