Bloc Party fans get a surprise

Band takes a cue from Radiohead with album download

LONDON -- Bloc Party fans expecting a routine Web chat with their heroes got more than they bargained for Monday, when the U.K. alt-rock band announced they would be able to download its new album, "Intimacy," in just 60 hours' time.

"They were very freaked out. It was really funny," frontman Kele Okereke said.

Bloc Party's London-based indie label, Wichita Recordings, could not be reached for comment, but Okereke joked that executives had a similar initial reaction to the rush release, before adding that they were "really into this idea, just as much as we were."

The band also has the backing of Universal Music Group -- Wichita has a joint-venture marketing agreement with the major's V2 label for the album and an international licensing agreement with the Cooperative Music collective, which is financially supported by UMG. The advance download concept has also been "embraced completely" by U.S. label Atlantic, according to Okereke.

"Intimacy," the band's third album, became available Thursday exclusively from CDs will be delivered Oct. 27, with the pre-order currently available in North America, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. "It's going really well. It's definitely working," the singer said, while declining to reveal specific figures.

Okereke denied the move was about "foxing the critics" and downplayed suggestions in a press release that the move was in response to the leak of Bloc Party's 2007 album "A Weekend in the City," which he says did not markedly affect sales. That album has moved 148,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Instead, the band has taken inspiration from Radiohead. "We finished it a few months ago and we thought, 'Why do we need to sit on it for six months after it's done?' " Okereke said. "It seems that post-'In Rainbows' there are no rules about this sort of thing anymore."

Right now, Okereke says the band is "looking forward to working out how we're going to play these songs live" on its North American dates, which begin Sept. 5 in Detroit.

Although he anticipates the band's youthful fan base will initially be buying the record, he hopes it will pick up an older audience when it goes to retailers in the fall. "I don't want it to just be an Internet, cool thing," he adds. "I want it to have a presence."
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