Bloc Party’s latest release follows a controversial and challenging period for the UK indie rock quartet, which, for their fans, marks a long-awaited return since their 2013 EP The Nextwave Sessions. Their fifth LP, Hymns, sees the band return to the scene with two new members and a fresh new style.
The lead single from the album, The Love Within, is a departure from the group’s typical style, and sees them experimenting with screaming synths and unusual, choppy grooves. It gives the impression that Bloc Party had a floor-filling indie dance anthem in mind while writing the opening track to their comeback album, however the track leaves the listener feeling as if there were something missing from the track, or at worst, completely irritated by “that synth” in the chorus (if you have listened to the track, you will know exactly what I’m referring to.)
That said, the first track is quickly forgotten as the mood swiftly changes on the second track, bringing us back to the Bloc Party we are familiar with. The theme of religion continues with this track as it begins with a chant of Only He Can Heal Me, which one could almost imagine hearing in a monastery in the Middle Ages. A dark, twisted cloud looms, and the groovy backing to Kele Okereke’s vocals and the experimental sound to the instrumental break make this a highlight of the album. While So Real is an easily forgotten yet pleasing and listenable tune, another highlight comes with fourth track, The Good News, which sees Bloc Party playing with a unique blend of their trademark indie sound and country music influences.
Fifth track Fortress is an attempt at a solemn expression of emotion which feels like a slow interlude to the album. While offering an interesting and original sound and with strong potential, it is let down by an unexpectedly weak vocal performance by Okereke, which renders the song less moving than a typical Bloc Party ballad. Different Drugs does the job much better, offering an emotional insight into the circumstances surrounding the departure of former bandmates Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes.
Into The Earth is a satisfyingly steady, foot-tapping tune which sees the album begin to pick up pace and marks the start of the most enjoyable section of the album. It feels like the most sincere version of Bloc Party we hear on the album – no special effects or electronic instruments can be heard on this track, making for a tasteful return to the classic indie rock quartet formula which first saw the band reach success over ten years ago. My True Name is a cool and catchy return to form for the band which almost makes up for a relatively slow start to the album with its short, memorable, to-the-point guitar riff, while following track Virtue surprisingly uses “that synth” from the opening track so successfully to the point that it results in this track being another favourite of this LP.
Exes has a contrasting mood to the previous section of the record, bringing us back to a slow pace towards the end of the album. Once again, Bloc Party’s ballads fail to deliver anything massively moving, although the song is still easily palatable. The closing track Living Lux is better, and with its pulsing, off-time rhythm throughout, it is almost reminiscent of the hidden track on 2005’s Silent Alarm. Fittingly, perhaps, as it feels as though Bloc Party have come full-circle in their 16-year long career. Hymns showcases the soul-searching that Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack have gone through during the band’s hiatus, and features some good song writing feats. While this album on the whole lacks excitement or any tracks that stand out massively, this is a good effort from a band still finding their feet with a new line-up and marks a respectable comeback from a relatively difficult period in the band’s timeline, which could be the start of a fresh new era.
For fans of: Foals, Editors, Maximo Park
Words by Tom Armstrong
‘Hymns’ by Bloc Party is out now on BMG.