By Alex Cheah
Kele Okereke is a man of dichotomies. For starters, he’s a muscular black guy fronting a band in a predominantly white genre – if Stevie Ray Vaughn is the white bluesman, then Okereke is the black indie-rocker. He’s equally, if not more, happy and comfortable DJ-ing as he is as lead member of arguably the preeminent fringe band of the last decade.
Kele’s ‘The Boxer’ had stand-out tracks like ‘Tenderoni’ and ‘The Other Side’ where Kele’s distinctive pining fused effectively with the impatient momentum that underpinned it, but these moments were too few and far between. More often than not, aside from the cheap vehicular synths and awkward dubstep sampling, ‘The Boxer’ felt like Bloc Party watered down into bad EDM. However the, at times annoying, mechanical droning of ‘The Boxer’ has been replaced with a sense of understated, soulful cool in ‘Trick’, and it doesn’t look back.
More generally, ‘Trick’s melodies weave slickly in and out of the textured rhythms to create tracks, especially ‘Like We Used To’ and ‘Humour Me’, that are really able to diffuse into and inhabit the listener. It’s an accomplished, considered effort, and thoroughly enjoyable to experience, but the difficulty is that it is at times hard to separate the work and ambitions of the solo artist from those of their more recognisable bands. Bloc Party’s music is generally energetic, expansive and dynamic, with an organic rawness and tangibility. Even ‘Intimacy’, their most electronic and experimental album, towers over ‘Trick’s simplicity with its arresting shifts in tone and emotive gravitas. ‘Trick’ is still Okereke putting his own spin on current electronic trends, and perhaps he owes more to the minimalist click-popping and urban/RnB influences of 2014 than to his own talents.
Thus ‘Trick’ needs to be assessed with conscientious relativity. As mentioned above, it is a neat and tidy album, with a clear stylistic motivation, but it’s not going to blow anyone out of the water, or even cause much of a ripple. It is possible though that it’s supposed to be this way, a means for Okereke to explore his fascination with EDM whilst on lengthy Bloc Party hiatuses. Regardless, ‘Tricks’ is a paragon for functionality, and that’s not something to turn one’s nose up at.