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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 09:49 GMT
Sound of 2005: Bloc Party
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Bloc Party
London guitar band Bloc Party, dubbed the "new Franz Ferdinand", have come second in the BBC News website's Sound of 2005 poll to find the most promising new acts.

Tips from more than 100 impartial writers, DJs and schedulers have been compiled into a list of artists to watch in the next 12 months. The winner and full top 10 will be named on Friday.

Bloc Party are not interested in getting to number one, according to singer Kele Okereke.

"I just want my expression to be as pure as it can," says the frontman who is hotly tipped to put the art back into chart.

Bloc Party
Bloc Party have already had two UK top 40 singles
Bloc Party have been together in various line-ups with various names for five years. Their ascent began in 2003 when the singer sent a demo tape to Franz Ferdinand - who invited them to play with them.

Now they have made a debut album, Silent Alarm, due in February, of driving, striving rock that combines British post-punk with the US alternative rock of The Pixies and Sonic Youth.

They tried to create "something that was big, something you could lose yourself in", Okereke says.

But the first song they recorded was called This Is Not A Competition - and Okereke still sticks by that motto.

"There isn't any point being competitive about anything - I think that's the wrong attitude when you're in a creative position because I really want to express stuff and I'm not doing this to be number one," he says.

Trying to be commercially successful "really can negate your art", he says. "It's just about trying to express something in an honest way."

I think putting people on pedestals and revering them is foolish and lazy
Kele Okereke
Drummer Matt Tong, the last piece of the Bloc Party puzzle to fall into place when he joined in 2003, agrees.

His aims for the band are to "try and be as relevant, creative and brave for as long as possible.

"And when that's no longer possible, to quit with our dignity intact. We've already achieved far more than we ever imagined," he says.

Bloc Party's agenda has already got them into the UK top 40 twice, reaching 26 with their last single, Helicopter, in November.

Their current progress may be partly down to the fact they changed their name from The Union in 2003 after encountering another band of the same name.

Bloc Party is a better name, Okereke says, and the change made the music industry take notice because people thought they were a new band - rather than one that had been plugging away for several years.

Bloc Party
Bloc Party's debut album is released in the UK on 14 February
"Which is absurd because the music's the same," the singer says. "But I'm learning that's how the industry works."

Asked for his cultural heroes, Okereke says he respects Kate Bush, Bjork and Davids Bowie and Byrne - "artists that haven't ever compromised".

He also gets inspiration from films and books, namechecking writers Elizabeth Wurtzel and Hanif Kureishi because they "have put a human face on modern suffering and anxiety".

But they are not his heroes. "I think putting people on pedestals and revering them is foolish and lazy to be honest," Okereke says.

Tong adds: "We've never really believed in lionising cultural icons to the extent that their emulation makes inroads into individual expression.

"How many times did we see that happen during Britpop? Wear your own heart on your sleeve, not someone else's."

If we had to stand against anything, we'd probably want to stand united against complacency
Matt Tong
Bloc Party are clearly not an average brainless rock band in it for the drugs and groupies and their music and image have an underlying intellectual and egalitarian theme.

Asked what the band stand for, Tong says: "If we had to stand against anything, we'd probably want to stand united against complacency.

"Then again, it's all good me saying that, bright eyed and bushy-tailed at the start of our little journey.

"Try asking us again in 10 years time when we all look like Keith Richards and have fathered numerous illegitimate children across the globe."

Okereke puts "an inclusive approach to listening to music" down as the thing they would like to represent.

"I had so many friends at school that were very elitist and snobbish about their music tastes - it became about social rank rather than about celebrating the power of music," he says.

"I always hated that and wanted to make sure this band meant something to people from all walks of life, not just hipsters."

  • The Sound of 2005 survey was compiled from the tips of more than 100 impartial music critics and broadcasters, who were asked to give three names of artists they thought would be successful in 2005. The artists with the most tips were then ranked to compile the Sound of 2005 list.

    Bloc Party: Helicopter


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