In the span of a decade, Bloc Party has managed to bear their teeth more than once in the British indie-pop scene. But, that was long ago. After rumors of a hiatus in 2013, the band saw major adjustments in hiring new talent. The band was filed down to two members after bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong exited by 2015. Since regrouping with added instrumentalists, Justin Harris and Louise Bartle, the band released their fifth album, Hymns, in January.
The album struggles through an uncharacteristic 11 song set. Hymns is recognizable to Bloc Party fans, thanks (solely) to the efforts of lead singer Kele Okereke. The opening 8 minutes are filled with eyebrow-raising, club infused beats, and a few short choruses. Aside from a few tracks, the album doesn’t divert from the genre. Track 4, “The Good News”, is the album’s most popular tune. The song has a modest guitar pulse, reminiscent of southern rock. Similar influences are peppered throughout the second half of the album.
Okereke is usually known for his unique lyrical and accented flare. At least he doesn’t disappoint in that category. Appropriately named, Hymns is based on religious decisions of past and future. Sadly, the appreciation of meaningful lyrics digresses, quickly. “Different Drugs” is a prime example of the album’s lag in enthusiasm and percussion-driven efforts. The track has far too many lyrics that loop around heartbreak and obsession themes. It’s easy for listeners to get lost and confused by this one-dimensional piece.
Listening to this album is like panning for fool’s gold. “My True Name” has promise of bringing a crowd together with its indie guitar riffs and light synth overtones. The good vibes are pushed aside with a blotchy pre-chorus and weak outro. In my opinion, “Living Lux” is the ‘breath of fresh air’ track on the album. The song takes no weird shortcuts and is layered in pumping, dream-like synthesizers. Four minutes later the song ends and so does the album.
I can see the attempts made toward the future of music. However, Bloc Party did not exceed expectations. They muddled through the tracks, which as a conglomeration had very little chemistry. That was apparent. Okereke explains this new approach as the next wave of Bloc Party. He publicly addresses the band’s new intentions in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). “Once a door is shut, I don’t look back.” As mentioned previously, there are club beats sown into the material of the album. This spawns from Okereke’s modern affair with the club scene. He also insists that this is the most ‘Bloc Party’ album to date. “Everyone in the band had influence…earlier albums had (too much) outside influence that bled through”, says Okereke.
Unfortunately, I believe him. It will take some time for this group to mesh. But, because of everyone contributing to the songs, I heard major flaws in consistency and quality dynamics with this album. I give it a 4.5 rating. For now, I’m sticking with the Bloc Party I love from a decade ago.