It's just a shame. It could be worse, of course. You don't have to be a cynical muso to anticipate for a band to be a bit uninspired after a four-year hiatus. It's expected, right?

It would be silly to expect another 'Silent Alarm' from the band who, let's face it, has been getting more and more disposable with each new album. 'A Weekend in the City,' Bloc Party's sophomore album, and 'Intimacy,' their third, represented two gradually worse creative crap-outs for the band.

But something about 'Four' just seems more than disappointing. At times it seems downright disdainful, like going out to dinner with an old friend you haven't seen in years and them not even making so much as an attempt to be engaging. Just going through the automatic motions, expecting you not to notice and not caring whether or not you do notice.

'Silent Alarm' represents the best, most fully realized album of the early '00s Brit boom. It still sounds great and relevant seven years after its release. But 'Four' barely stands up under its own 43-minute running time.

And the legs that support the album -- those brief bursts of music which make your head tilt a bit and give you a bit of hope that the album may just be a delayed grower -- those legs are usually just, ahem, liberally borrowed from other songs.

Surely the band isn't trying to hide the fact that the hook of their new single, 'Octopus,' is lifted directly right out of a certain song about diseased rabbits from 'Hail to the Thief.'

'V.A.L.I.S.' might as well directly sample '1901' by Phoenix.  'Real Talk' is a pretty good Blur song. And we're not the only ones who heard the riff from the opening track, 'So He Begins to Lie,' and double checked to make sure we didn't slip in a wandering 311 CD.

During the times where Bloc Party does sound like Bloc Party, it's so weighted down by post-punk sprechgesang cliche that you can't wait for the band to get back to sounding like Muse again.

So, yeah, it's just a shame. 'Four' is just a formless mess, half-baked at best and seemingly thrown together last minute.

There was once a Charlie Rose interview with David Foster Wallace where they dismiss a movie as being "so bad it doesn't even have charm." There you go. 'Four' is just that. It's an album so tepid and bland it doesn't leave so much as an aftertaste.