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Vice presents
God Bless Bloc Party (2005)

Fan: Probably Price of Gasoline. I can't remember the exact line, but it's when he's talking about George Bush and making the same mistakes as his dad.
Interviewer: What do you think of George Bush?
Fan: Don't know if he's a Bloc Party fan.

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: January 16, 2006

Stars: Kele Okereke, Matt Tong, Gordon Moakes, Russell Lissack
Director: Ace Norton, Charles Spano

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some language)
Run Time: 00h:44m:56s
Release Date: January 17, 2006
UPC: 085365316324
Genre: pop

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-D+B- F

DVD Review

Bloc Party is one of the best British imports making rock safe for music lovers right now; the band exploded in England in 2005 and made a splash in the US indie world with the release of their first full-length album, Silent Alarm, last February. It's one of the best albums of the year, a straight-up rock record featuring big hooks, driving rhythms, intelligent lyrics, and a unique sound that recalls many other groups—Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, New Order, Radiohead, Interpol—but doesn't ape them. Lead singer Kele Okereke has a distinct, unmistakable voice (he's also one of those rare Brits who still has an accent when he sings), and the band (Matt Tong on drums, Gordon Moakes on bass, and Russell Lissack on guitar) is tight and cohesive particularly during live shows. Portions of a pair of them are included in God Bless Bloc Party, a documentary that tries to say something about the band, but really just provides a platform for their music (not such a bad thing).

Filmed before, during, and after a June 2005 show at the El Ray Theater in Los Angeles, God Bless Bloc Party's focus is clearly on the live performance and flash, not on getting you inside the band. I have no complaints that the performance is the main attraction (as it should be), but the documentary segments are insubstantial, even dull. Instead of probing who the band members are or revealing anything about the music, interview segments are jokey, presenting out-of-context bits of humor or brief snippets of members giving non-answers to questions both from the person operating the camera and journalists boarding the bus. Most of the focus is on lead singer Kele Okereke, but he seems less than interested in talking about the music or his creative process, sometimes trailing off in the middle of sentences or forgetting questions entirely.

As I said, the majority of the 44-minute running time is spent onstage, and it's a good show. Many songs are presented in their entirety, filmed with multiple cameras and presented with lots of flashy editing and video effects to add some visual punch that keeps this from feeling like many locked-down, static camera concert programs. The band proves to be strong in person; the songs follow the album versions fairly closely but are juiced up with solos, extended intros, and throbbing energy. An additional 20-minute, five-song set, Live in Belfast, is also featured, and it's a nice, if abbreviated, performance (though it repeats several songs included in the documentary).

The set includes the majority of Silent Alarm (though not all songs are complete):

Like Eating Glass
She's Hearing Voices
This Modern Love
So Here We Are
Positive Tension
Price of Gasoline
Blue Light
The Marshals are Dead
Little Thoughts

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: To borrow a lyric from the band, watching this transfer is like eating glass. The whole thing is filmed with a lot of style and video tricks, so I can handle the bizarre colors and intentional graininess here and there. But throughout, the picture suffers from some really bizarre defects. Odd digital scan lines (sort of like the interlaced lines on a traditional television, but more noticeable from farther away) are visible throughout. Any complex pattern shows severe artifacting (guitar strings look very fuzzy). And contrasting edges (part of the drum kit or the singer's shoulder set against a bright spotlight, for example) have a weird blocky appearance, like you can see individual pixels.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 audio mix sounds decent enough during live performances, at least in the front soundstage, which seems fairly full and brings the lyrics to the fore. LFE is a bit lacking, and the surrounds, which carry some crowd noise and a bit of echo from the music, are a bit distracting. During the documentary, speech is often impossible to understand, and though that might have a lot to do with the recording quality, nothing has been done to clean it up.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This DVD isn't very impressive—not only is it missing band bios, music videos, or other bonuses, there aren't even any scene selection or set-up menus, just a main menu that allows you to pick the documentary or the live show.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

I was excited to see a breaking band like Bloc Party release a DVD so quickly, and though the feature's content, including some great live performances, is fine, the disc is a disappointment, plagued with a poor video transfer and problematic audio and missing even the most basic features.


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