Kele Okereke: “Trick” Album Review

Written By: Edward Ramjuse from Kenya

Trick was the second solo album by Kele Okereke, the lead singer of British indie rock band Bloc Party. The album was released on 13 October 2014 through Lilac Records.  It entered the UK Albums Chart at number 99. Over four years had passed since Kele Okereke last released a solo record (2010’s The Boxer). Since then, Kele had dropped a handful of EPs, including two out-and-out house short-lengths, collaborated with a host of artists, and entered the world of professional singing. Captivated by his New York pals’ hazy tales of one-night stands, booty calls, and half-forgotten “tricks,” Kele Okereke would  get the inspiration for his second album and went ahead to use the bastardized term for the title of his second solo album. The word is alluring, a tad controversial, and fits the mood of the season, but couldn’t be less fit to actually describe the mood of this introspective 10-track affair.

Once more, Kele’s detractions from formulas and prescribed routes will test the affections of Bloc Party stalwarts. But, like the band, Kele prides himself on change. Evolution is the key, and moving forward is essential. Kele’s Trick was seen by many as a rather delicate record, delivered via genres not known for their subtlety, and it’s fascinating to unwrap the layers of deep intimacy, personal revelation and sensitivity that have reared its head so rarely in Kele’s career. He’s had a reputation for being guarded in the past, but on Trick, we see him wear his heart on his sleeve.

Without context, a “trick” lacked substance, and as others would say the album was able to offer some short-term ecstasy but no long-term respect. But then that’s the life of any music. Now that guitar-oriented artists are quick to jump on the dance music bullet train to snag club gigs and remix credits, the title evokes memories of ill-fated genre-hoppers. But thankfully, neither the beats nor the lyrics on the tracks in the album are drawn from the shallow artistic well of enhanced marketability.

Year Zero” is one of the 10 tracks in the Trick album. The track was a falsetto-laden number, an R&B ballad sodden with emotion. The other unique track in the album was the record highlight, “Closer”, which boasted of sparse 3am guitars and tinny 808s, and you’d be pardoned if you heard musical similarities to comparisons to The XX. The chorus, sung by an unnamed collaborator (most likely Yasmin Shahmir, who features on “First Impressions”), is thoroughly engrossing: “In your absence I unravel/In you absence I am gone/so go easy on this heart/time to love or fall apart/In your absence I unravel/I need you closer.”

As he mentioned several times in pre-Trick interviews, Okereke had historically felt more comfortable as a gay black man within the dance community than the indie rock scene. Trick contains the romantic, sexual thoughts and imagery that just wouldn’t work as part of Bloc Party’s discography.

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