Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Won’t Kele Okerere Won’t Keep His Mouth Closed?

It took a while for me to get into Bloc Party. When they started getting a lot of hype in late 2004, I dismissed them as another boring post-punk guitar band from the UK. But after a few repeated listens of Silent Alarm, they grew on me. I finally broke down and admitted that they wrote catchy songs and that they weren’t as derivative of Gang of Four as their contemporaries. Moreover, I found their singer, Kele Okerere, to be a fascinating character. I mean, here was this middle-class Anglo-Nigerian who was playing good rock music and not relying on his heritage as a crutch. At the time, I thought he was a terrific inspiration for all of us African rockers who were attempting to reconcile our indigenous cultures with those of our adopted Western homes (be they here in the States or in the lands of our former European colonial masters).

Kele was a particularly brash young lad when it came to doing interviews. During the first few months of Bloc Party’s career, he claimed that he was uninterested in discussing fashion or celebrity gossip. He was fiery and argumentative and openly voiced his displeasure with daft comments or questions that probed a little bit too deeply into his personal life. Without a doubt, his responses were a welcome departure from the dull, prepackaged dribble that one gets used to reading in the music press.

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But lately, I’ve been turned off by a lot of the comments that Kele has been making. This morning, for example, I was particularly annoyed at his response to Noel Gallagher’s comment that Bloc Party are “indie shit”:

"I think Oasis are the most overrated and pernicious band of all time. They had a totally negative and dangerous impact upon the state of British music."

Mr. Okerere decided to take things even further and accused Oasis of making stupidity hip. He also chided the group for their Beatle worship and denounced the Gallagher Brothers as “repetitive Luddites."
Now there’s certainly some truth to these comments, but three things came to mind as I read The Guardian while eating breakfast this morning.
First of all, Kele is not saying anything new. Damon Albarn and Alex James made similar comments during Blur’s mid 1990s feud with Oasis. At least they occasionally had a sense of humor about it.
Second, by making these comments Kele has degraded himself to the level of the typical, gossip-obsessed pop stars that he once derided. There was no need for him to respond to an offhanded comment with such vitriol.
And finally, it should be noted that stupidity was “hip” long before Oasis came crashing onto the scene. Kele should be so fortunate that he did not have to endure the countless idiotic hardcore bands that have roamed the United States since the late 1980s.
Kele’s petty arguing and pretentious, pseudo-intellectual babble only helps to underscore Noel Gallagher’s quip that Bloc Party are a gang of rejects from University Challenge (UK equivalent of College Bowl). What is Kele saying that one thousand other second rate indie groups from the back pages of NME haven't already said?
Nothing, that's what.
He's a pretentious man/boy with a big mouth.There is nothing special about him and I withdraw any ideological support that I once had for him. I will, however, keep buying his albums.
Please don’t get the impression that I ever worshipped Kele Okerere; my Ugandan pride would never allow me to stoop to that level. I’m just disappointed in the guy, that’s all. I could easily devote several pages to why Kele’s nonsense is so troubling, but rather than waste my time, I’ll allow you to compare and contrast the following comments:

"Why is it important to know what I had for breakfast? Or who I went to bed with? Or what sneakers I am wearing? If it's relevant to understanding my music, then so be it. But if it's purely to satisfy the media's obsession with celebrity, then no thanks. I don't want to play that game."
-Skyskraper Magazine 2005

“I used to wear Converse all the time, but the support is bad. A friend of mine got these Dunlop shoes for me in Melbourne, and they’re incredibly comfortable. There’s something about dirty white shoes that I like”
-Rolling Stone February 22nd 2007

Is the difference between Dunlop and Converse really relevant to the release of your most recent album? I really doubt it. Piss off, you hypocrite.


Photos Courtesy of Sophie Jarry's Blog


ManicHispanic said...

Quite frankly i find the new album to be garbage. They had alot of investment from the Vice record label which spawned from the magazine ( you might be familiar with their dvd ) so i imagine there was alot of pressure and alot of people were real amped for new material and let down. Its also important to keep in mind that Kele is gay and no offense to any of you fruit loops out there but gay people have a tendencey to be really insulting without thinking about what their really saying because they think its cute. ew. anyway sophmore jinx leads to bitterness about any negative questions, just my two cents.

Tom4 said...

Whatever. Bloc Party is wholly mediocre, a couple of songs aside. I mean, what the fuck? Is he honestly singing about sudoku on the new album? You're essentially calling Oasis stupid and that's your big artistic statement? "You are the bluest light"? For real? Gorgeous melody, but c'mon. I wrote stupid shit like that when I was 15 and had a account.

Kele is self-important, pretentious, and, as much as he'd like you to believe he doesn't care what you think of him or his band, that's totally untrue. What a fraud. Just like the Arcade Fire, Bloc Party have their eyes set squarely on superstardom. Unlike Arcade Fire, they can't write anything better than a pretty, surface-y tune.

Jaydee said...

Patrick K.. what up jigga... Guess what? I'm going to go see Bloc Party after work tomorrow for the 2nd time.. and I'm going to love it. I think the sophomore album is mediocre and a bit of a disappointment, but I love Silent Alarm and Matt Tong is a fun drummer.. He's the main reason I wanna see them live again. I felt like it was Kele's intention to make a more serious 2nd album to give his band more credibility, but wtf was wrong with just writing fun songs your drummer can just let loose and have fun playing on.. It sounds like Matt was held back on this album except for maybe 2 songs. All in all... Kele's human.. he's entitled to make stupid remarks and errors... and when I say errors.. I meant the 2nd album. Peace holmes... I enjoy your writing.


Cleverby said...

Dude, agreed totally. Its funny I just read that article and thought the same thing. I was like, hmmm, a little early in the game to be so dismissive of other artists. Save that bravado/opponent bashing for commercial rappers. :]

I want to know! said...

"countless idiotic hardcore bands "

Give a few examples please.