This Bloc Party article was written by by Danielle Iliff, a GIGsoup contributor
‘Hymns’ marks not only a spiritual and more restrained turn for Bloc Party, but also something of a rebirth for the band with the LP being their first full length release since the loss of long-term members Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong.
Released as the first single off the record in October last year, ‘The Love Within’ also opens the album where we witness, luridly, Bloc Party’s returning incorporation of electronic instrumentals largely experimented with in ‘Intimacy’. Whilst the abrasive synths clumsily drive the track and undermines the euphoria it strives for, it is not, thankfully, indicative of the LP as a whole. It is the one song where instrumentals take strong precedence over Kele Okereke’s vocals, which are otherwise positioned as a focal point throughout the album. Russell Lissack’s guitar, formerly dominating and disrupting any sense of “easy” listening now takes a backseat, merging almost too seamlessly for Bloc Party’s biggest fans tastes.
If it is the “old” Bloc Party you’re searching for, along with ‘So Real’, ‘Only He Can Heal Me’ is the closest you’ll get. With a dark and relentless chanting underscoring the track, a powerless Okereke tells a tale of desperation with the lament: “Help me overcome it for only he can heal me with his touch.” As the song approaches its latter third, Lissak’s distinctive riff sparks nostalgia of an uninhibited Bloc Party, yet does not reproduce the same conviction which truly summon the zeal and poignancy of Okereke’s words. Though Okereke has expressed his preference for instrumental control, which, as he has previously stated renders the chaos of ‘Silent Alarm’ a difficult listen, as ‘Hymns’ trudges on, there is a feeling that this restraint has been implemented in excess and consequently lacks the bite which once made the band so crucial.
‘Virtue’ attempts to inject a sense of exuberance into the weary journey and rouses the listener with more finely tuned and executed EDM features than as heard on ‘The Love Within’. A minimalist approach however works to the band’s advantage on the atmospheric ‘Different Drugs’, where a simple low synth and drum beat over deep house smoothly guide the song and establish a more lucid feeling in comparison to the many muddled compositions present elsewhere on the album.
The final track, ‘Living Lux’, epitomises the break-up theme evident throughout the LP. Whilst it narrates Okereke’s final meal with a loved one, it is as much about saying goodbye to his band members as it is his exes. As Okereke yearns in retrospect: “Shirtless and faded on the Champs-Élysées, the world was ours then”, the delicate plodding synths increase both in tempo and pitch as the track impressively culminates.
While it may not bring us any closer to the spiritual revelation it contemplates or live up to expectations set from over a decade ago, ‘Hymns’ certainly retains Bloc Party’s sense of purity and vulnerability. Yet, despite its potential to grow on the listener after several plays, the album regrettably produces very few indelible moments.