Bloc Party

Hymns

Written by: HES on 18/03/2016 10:23:08

Bloc Party was one of the bands that found its way to the Myspace-crowd of the 00’s, as the infectious electronic take of the band resonated with many in spite of regular genre-preferences. In 2013 the band announced that they would go on an “indefinite hiatus”, but already in September 2014 vocalist and general mastermind of Bloc Party, Kele Okereke, announced that the band was working on a new album. Having lost two members, the band later presented their new line-up with a new drummer and bassist. The band has generally shifted between the two poles “rock” and “electronica”, this album being a move towards the latter.

“Hymns” is an album in many ways resembling a musical patchwork quilt: While the guitar work of Russell Lissack often has been described as shoegazy, the vocal stylings of Okereke is more reminiscent of a stripped down gospel-singer. The influences of the individual tracks can move from bluesy, to jazzy and sometimes even crouching into the territory of trip-hop. In spite of this seemingly colourful description, “Hymns” is foremost a collection of minimalist songs best exemplified by the track “So Real”. In spite of the excess of musical elements, the band have made the clever decision to only featuring one - a simplistic bassline, soulful vocals, a sliding guitar riff - at a time.

As much as the restrained composition of the album is a valuable feature, it also is the album’s greatest weakness: It becomes very clear, how lacking the actual songwriting and melodic construction of Okereke and Lissack really is. On Bloc Party’s former albums, the massiveness and often “newness” of the sound stole the spotlight, but on “Hymns” the minimalist soundscape also puts emphasis on lyrics, where the rhymes are fifth grade-level and the perspective is mainly that of a scorned, first-person narrative: “If you're looking for devotion then come to me. If you're fearing your emotions - you gotta believe me that it goes both ways”.

Whereas the combination of electronica and rock usually provides for energetic soundscapes and contagious choruses, it seems Bloc Party has decided to not make use of any of those recipes on “Hymns”. The album mainly comes off as a self-centered rather than personal narrative of the break-up of the band in 2013. It also utilizes its greatest asset of the band, Okereke’s peculiarity, very poorly - simply putting him in this weird role of a spiritual leader that the composition at the same time doesn’t have the grandness to achieve. Okereke has said, that the album comes from a very “honest” place, but mainly the honesty comes off as awkward and really just exemplifies that Okereke is neither a great singer nor a great scribe, leaving the album hopelessly begging for more afterthought.

6

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Release date 29.01.2016
Infectious Records

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