Wednesday, January 17, 2007

what a man, what a man...

Is there any relevance to knowing that the brilliant and beautiful frontman, Kele Okereke, of Bloc Party is gay? (J Mo gave me the scoop, and I just read the fantastically written UK Guardian's interview with him, where he reveals more about himself than evr before.)

The answer is yes!

It was so intriguing to read about Kele, and learn some of his story, finally. He's 25 (!...I always get off a little more when public figures are exactly my age. I feel that I can understand where they're coming from, I can relate to at least that one thing). Kele "grew up in Essex but was born in Liverpool, to Nigerians who came to the city in the late-Seventies to study. Mum is a midwife, Dad a molecular biologist." words..........just stunning. What a fucking unique perspective for the songwriter of a rock band. I mean, really: Liverpool by way of Nigeria!? But, as he says, he doesn't seem to claim anywhere as "home," really. There's also intelligent, thoughtful talk of race, drugs, religion and of course, his sexuality, which he wisely chose not to discuss until he felt ready. Since he more specifically discusses sex on the most recent Bloc Party record, "A Weekend in the City" (*this is the album, along with "Village Green" that I just can't stop listening to, of late... it's raw, yet carefully constructed intensely emotive-but so not emo-rock and the killer riffs, manic drumming and brilliant build-ups are addictive...let alone the deep, layered lyrics...*) he thought it was *relevant* to discuss it now. I think he's right.

I absolutely love this bit and what he has to say:

"... just as he hated being reduced to 'black guy in indie band', he refused to be drawn either way on his sexuality.

'I didn't talk about it when I did interviews for the last record because it wasn't an area really reflected in the music; I didn't talk about race for the same reason. Why was that still a discussion point? The only reason it was a discussion point was because of the racial prejudice that exists in the mainstream media.'

But A Weekend in the City is a record full of intriguing lyrics and scenarios. Two songs, 'I Still Remember' and 'Kreuzberg', seem to explicitly explore homosexuality. The former is about a crush between two schoolboys ('We left our trousers by the canal'). The latter is about gay promiscuity. So has Okereke decided to talk about his sexuality?

'I think I'm going to have to. With the first album I didn't think it was essential to the experience. I didn't want to have to talk about it in a tabloid way. It wasn't there in the songs, so why did people need to know? But yeah, there are songs on this record that do feel like they're about desire, longing. So yeah,' he concludes, 'I am gonna talk about that.'"

and this:

Their website featured a manifesto ('Bloc Party is an autonomous unit of un-extraordinary kids reared on pop culture between the years of 1976 and the present day ...') and quoted from Bertrand Russell. They wore their pretension heavily, and in their interviews often came across as intense and glum. As Liam Gallagher hilariously observed, they looked like a University Challenge team.

They are the "clever ones;" and I love them for it. (I equally love Oasis for being non-clever and full of swagger, tot.) After reading the interview, I realized why I wanted to put The Smiths' records on (he did too!)...there's a connection, an inspiration: he says, "There's no worse sin as an artist than hiding behind cliches and abstraction. If you have something to say, it should be able to be understood by everyone. So I wanted to make sure this album had a real centre."...that just hits me so hard. This is why I love pop music with intelligible, story-telling lyrics so much. I think that it really reaches people, touches them.

I feel so lucky that I get to put this record on everyday, because it doesn't even hit British audiences until Feb. 5th...legally...yeah. [the writer giggles mischievously] It feels like an important record...a timepiece, for sure. There's "Hunting for Witches," which is, of course, applicable to the the paranoia the world is experiencing in war time. This different kind of war time, one where "enemies" may be among us. (Just *listen to Dumbass Dubya, or simply watch "24," dude.) But, the phrase "hunting for witches" is as ancient as the Salem acts of religious, cultural sexism, and just as applicable for reference to McCarthyism and the Cold War-era...which gives a much broader scope to what Kele is addressing. And, clearly, the "City" that the quasi-concept album is about is London, yes, but virtually everything he sings about is relevant to urban living in modern times...(and it's a helluva lot more urgent and germane than Bob Dylan's record--of the same name-- that's getting so drooled over...)

Damn, I love this guy.

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