Intimacy would have been a good name for Bloc Party's previous album, A Weekend in the City, which was so vulnerable and confessional that it often felt like barely edited diary entries set to music. The album's take on 21st century life and love was heavy listening in large part because it felt so personal. Bloc Party's mood is just as dark on Intimacy, which plays a lot like A Weekend in the City's mirror twin: it's a breakup album that gives personal situations a political heft. The similarities aren't really that surprising, considering that Intimacy arrived just a year and a half after A Weekend in the City and also features production work by Jacknife Lee (as well as Silent Alarm producer Paul Epworth). The album begins with two of Bloc Party's angriest, most experimental songs, which revisit the beat-heavy territory of A Weekend in the City's "Prayer" with even more charged results. "Ares" is a modern-day war chant, with seething processed guitar lines fueled by huge pummeling drums, the likes of which haven't been heard since the big beat heyday of the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. "Mercury" is cleverly astrological, using a straight description of Mercury's retrograde conditions ("This is not the time to start a new love/This is not the time to sign a lease") as a springboard to a self-loathing rant set to wildly spiraling brass and more of those bludgeoning beats. Bloc Party push the envelope hard on both of these tracks, almost to the point of pretension, but not quite; actually, it's a little anticlimactic when they return to more familiar terrain like "Halo," which could fit in easily among Silent Alarm's angsty rockers.
However, the band does find subtle ways to tweak and channel that angst: "Biko" (not the Peter Gabriel song) is dedicated to Kele Okereke's "sweetheart the melancholic," but when he sings that "you've got to toughen up," he sings it to himself as much as his lost love, and as the song closes with a swell of backing vocals, it's clear that he's singing about more than something between two people. The band captures post-breakup obsession masterfully on the frosty yet strangely hopeful "Signs," where the way Okereke sings "I could sleep forever these days/'Cause in my dreams I see you again" makes this kind of brooding almost as romantic as actually being in love. "Zephyrus" balances Intimacy's heartbreak and experimental tendencies into a standout, setting snippets of an argument to strings, choral vocals, and sputtering rhythms. "Ion Square" ends the album on a somewhat uplifting note along the lines of Silent Alarm's "So Here We Are" or A Weekend in the City's "I Still Remember," and as good as it is, it underscores the album's push-pull between familiar sounds and breaking boundaries. At times, Intimacy feels rushed and predictable, and at others, it's almost painfully ambitious. However, at its best, it balances Silent Alarm's focus with A Weekend in the City's expansiveness.