Let’s be honest with ourselves: every Bloc Party album that gets release, we secretly hope will be as tremendous as the band’s 2005 debut album, Silent Alarm. For a fan to wish for this is natural, as we find comfort in the familiar, but it is also selfish and unfair. While Bloc Party’s fifth album, Hymns, lacks the urgency of some of their previous high BPM hits, the songwriting is the best it has ever been with profound lyrics, and subtle but clever harmonies.
One must remember what a blessing lead singer Kele Okereke is to the general consciousness. He is a creative force of nature. Kele took Bloc Party’s fate into his own hands in 2003, forcing a demo of “She’s Hearing Voices” onto radio DJ Steve Lamacq while attending a Franz Ferdinand show. Kele has also stood as a gay icon, sometimes reluctantly, rebuffing the press’s attempts to compartmentalize him. He also has gone toe-to-toe with Oasis, calling Liam and Noel luddites who have had a pernicious effect on English music.
Kele and the rest of the band are unrelenting in their incessant need to shirk the status quo and venture into uncharted artistic ground, and Hymns is no exception. Having explored an increasingly electronic influence, including a riveting solo career, Hymns lands in a more spiritual place.
The first single “The Love Within” tricks the listener into thinking this might be an electronica album, but the wonky synthesizer gives way to a brash chorus that touches the brilliance of Silent Alarm. “Only He Can Heal Me” sounds like a devotional that you might hear sitting in a church pew, but it serves as a brilliant love song that arises as one of the biggest earworms on the album. The trademark finger-picking guitar of Bloc Party cements the third track “So Real” and Kele’s vocals are nothing short of haunting.
The epoch of Hymns, comes with it’s fourth offering, “The Good News”, which has a rollicking vintage feel to it, which isn’t too far from Johnny Cash.
“Every day I go down to the water
And I pray since you left me that way
Oh Lord, I’m trying to keep my mind
On the good news that’s in my heart”
“The Good News” is quite possibly the best track by Bloc Party since the release of Silent Alarm.
“Fortress” brings some pensive ambient electro to the album but never seems to register a pulse. “Different Drugs” is brooding, building, and hauntingly good. “Into The Earth” is a bit too whimsical and saccharine to fit the album’s sentiment, while “My True Name” is an effective mix of finger-picking guitar and synth-ambience. “Virtue” brings back the wonky synth from the “The Love Within”, while “Exes” is a slow burning number that seems to delve the deepest into Kele’s emotions on the album, and “Living Lux” is an ethereal farewell.
If you are looking for Silent Alarm Part 2 then you will be disappointed in Hymns, but if you are receptive to the progression of Bloc Party, then this album will invigorate your faith in the band’s ingenuity. Music has its genesis in religion, and while Hymns has shirked the religious context, it has kept it’s devotion and spirituality. The result is a powerful reincarnation of a band that has rejected becoming mired in banality and a hackneyed outdated sound. Previous Bloc Party albums electronically stimulate the brain’s dopamine receptors, while Hymns deftly tugs the heart strings.
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