Flipping the dial (wait, that doesn’t really make sense, it should be “turning the dial,” except that my radio is one of those new-fangled types, so it’s actually “cycling through the presets,” but that just sounds lame) between The Current and Radio K has messed with my head enough that I’m starting to think that it might be worth my while to check out what the kids are listening to nowadays. So I went down to Cheapo and spent some of the money I don’t have on new CDs. For a change, “new” doesn’t mean “I really should’ve gotten this record when it came out fifteen years ago;” I actually picked up some CDs in the same year that they were released. It’s been a long time since I felt the little thrill that comes from listening to an album by a band that I don’t already know; one of these albums is the new release by Bloc Party, Silent Alarm.

The first four tracks on the disc are kind of annoying. In the beginning, the songs have a cocky, britpoppy feel to them, a sound that never fails to get on my nerves (shut up, Gallaghers). The glossy production doesn’t help, smothering most of the music’s post-punkish energy and making lead singer Kele Okereke’s voice sound more nasal than it was probably supposed to, although it was probably supposed to sound pretty nasal. It’s not exactly B-Real, but it’s still distracting, and suggests bad posture or clogged sinuses more than any kind of angst or disaffection. Attention, angsty male indie-pop singers of the world: you have diaphragms, please learn to use them. Thanks.

Something changes, though, on the fifth song on the record, “Blue Light.” Okereke’s voice doesn’t change, but the tone of the music changes. It turns away from the furious whining of the earlier tracks, and turns inward, the music and lyrics become less aggressive and more introspective. This isn’t just a token ballad, either; by the time the pace picks up again a few tracks later, the tone for the rest of the album has been set: out with the “teeth and claws,” in with the “breathe in, breathe out.”

At this point, the propulsive rhythms and laminated production are no longer at odds, but combine to create a sense of clarity and urgency, of an understanding of what’s wanted and a desperate desire to pursue it. Even Okereke’s phlegmatic voice begins to take on a different meaning; no longer just snotty, but trying to find a cure for what ails him. I can get behind that.