Album Review: Bloc Party – Hymns (2016 LP)

Straight up, Hymns is as far removed from the Bloc Party that burst on to the scene in the mid 2000’s as possible. Hymns doesn’t have a “Banquet” or “Helicopter”, and slightly misses the mark with its balladry. But, the development and reincarnation of Bloc Party on Hymns obviously didn’t want the band to be seen as the brash and in your face band that they once were on Silent Alarm. Frankly, Hymns is a positive step for a band looking to shake things up and approach their music in an entirely different way.

Opening track and lead single “The Love Within” is as close as the new material gets to replicating old Bloc Party. With its soaring melody and vocals from front man Kele Okereke, “The Love Within” is the big single on Hymns. I’m still undecided whether the synths add or detract from the track but either way, they definitely add another realm. “Only He Can Save Me”, with its possibly biblical reference, seemingly borrows a little in the closing stages from Humbug era Arctic Monkeys.

Back to back tracks “The Good News” and “Fortress” prove to be the strongest parts of the LP, with “The Good News” a real blues influenced track, while “Fortress” is a little James Blake-esque. “Fortress” is the stand out moment on the Hymns. One thing that hasn’t wavered over Bloc Party’s existence is the strength and distinctive tone of Okereke’s vocals. With much of the tempo reduced and melody much more apparent on Hymns, Okereke’s vocals become the focal point, where previously they just accompanied the band.

The keys and synths of “The Love Within” return on “Virtue”, which is another point on the album where you’re not quite sure whether the band is trying to remove itself from its previous state. One notable difference on Hymns is the obvious influence Okereke’s solo material has had on the development of Hymns. “Eden” and “Paradiso” are both slinky dance tracks that could easily have appeared on Kele releases, while “New Blood” has some youthful exuberance to it, with the bass playing an ever-important role through out the entire run.

Hymns is by no means an album that is going to be a reference point for Bloc Party fans and observers in the future. It’s clear that with the band effectively a new entity entirely, changes needed to be made. While many fans may retreat back to A Weekend In The City or Silent Alarm, there is also no reason why Hymns can’t (or won’t) be enjoyed by loyal fans in the future.

Review Score: 7 out of 10.

Hymns is out now.


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