In 2015, Bloc Party returned with a brand new line-up and an album announcement. Front-man Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack are now joined by bassist Justin Harris and drummer Louise Bartle. The band lost members Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong due a situation Kele explained as “someone doing cocaine and someone not being into it.” Cryptic. Their new album, Hymns, was released on Friday (29th January) and had been streaming online from Tuesday of the same week.
The opening track, “Love Within” has been around since November, and is a very clear statement that Bloc Party are no longer the same band from the early noughties. Back then, indie guitar music was experiencing a purple patch inspired by The Strokes. Cool kids nationwide were pledging their allegiance to the Arctic Monkeys’ resonating (soon-to-be) classics, Franz Ferdinand’s suave and slick sound or the more raw and punky Bloc Party. Their debut Silent Alarm is one of the best albums of the century so far. The follow up, A Weekend In The City, was darker and deeper, and saw Kele suffering from the “second-generation blues.” It was stunning. Bloc Party had captured the moment and a generation.
Since then, it has been hard not to compare their more recent work to these early releases. It pains me to do this, as I hate the ‘I prefered their early stuff’-crowd. I think it’s crazy for any music fan to think that a band can continue to make albums that are in exactly the same style of their debut. Look at the Arctic Monkeys. They started out writing indie guitar about the day-to-day life of living in Sheffield and now they’re bona-fide Americana stadium-slayers. I even welcomed Mumford & Sons’ bold step away from the banjos last summer. Change is natural and is what makes a good artist.
I did appreciate BP’s 2008 effort, Intimacy, for this reason – its bold new direction. It merged their classic post-punk style with Kele’s new obsession with dance music. Their fourth record, Four, was hailed as a return to form, but to me it was lazy, and just not as good as their previous work. So when I heard ‘Love Within’ and its new sound, I was excited at at the thought of the new Bloc Party, even if I didn’t care much for the track itself.
Sadly though, I do not care for Hymns either. It’s a lazy, self-indulgent record that just doesn’t quite work. Clearly Kele is battling with a failed band and his religious-themed lyrics just seem confused. The sound of a man not quite remembering how to be a songwriter after a few years playing DJ. He has never been a master-lyricist but “These words will fall short / But I must try,” which he sings on “Exes” is just a contradiction. The record is confused. It is a weird mix between Russell’s shoegazey guitar lines and some very odd synth lines. “Rock’n’roll has got so old, just give me neo-soul”, Kele sings on “Into The Earth”, but Hymns is not neo-soul – it’s just soulless.
That is quite a damning review, but I just wanted to provide some perspective on what will be one of the most publicised albums of the month. Now, I can give you five releases that are really worth celebrating this murky January – a month that is stereotypically devoid of new releases.
Hinds Leave Me Alone
These four girls from Madrid have been setting the world alight one city at a time. Their live show is quite simply the most fun you can have in an hour without taking your clothes off. Their debut full length LP, released in the middle of the month, lives up to the hype they built up in 2015.
Wall Wall EP
The New York quartet bring the attitude on their debut EP. It’s modern day punk with serious lyrical bite from frontwoman Sam Wood. Ones to watch this year.
Savages Adore Life
The second record from the London-based Savages is a snarling post-punk record that stabs at your emotional heartstrings. It marks the all-girl band as one of the most exciting acts of the moment.
DIIV Is the Is Are
The sophomore LP from Zachary Cole Smith is a swirling double album of infectious shoegazey vibes. A wonderful experience from start to finish. It’s not actually released until next week, but you can stream it in full on the Guardian website here.
David Bowie Blackstar
Need I say anything about this release? Personally, I can’t listen to it, as it makes me too emotional, but that is just a compliment to the quality of Bowie’s parting gift to us.
Agree or disagree with me? Get in touch!
or comment below!
Written by Sachin Turakhia