Just Hymning Along (Bloc Party, Hymns review)

There is this really lame scene from 2007’s Spider-man 3 where Peter Parker gets upset with Eddie Brock, pushes him against a wall, and decides to expose him as a fake photographer. Which is then topped off by the one-liner – You want forgiveness, get religion.

Fans of the Spider-man comic books can appreciate both the cheesiness of this line, and the attempt at foreshadowing the pending birth of Venom in the film.

This might be relevant to today’s Melodic Monday entry in more ways than one.

 

 

 

Bloc Party – Hymns
released January 29, 2016
****** 6/10

Bloc-Party-HYMNS

Bloc Party are an English indie rock band, which also use elements of electronica and house in their music. Though they have seen some lineup changes over the past few years, the current band is composed of Kele Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler), Russell Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals) and Louise Bartle (drums).

This is their fifth studio album, which comes after a 4 year hiatus. After 2012’s Four was released, Matt Tong left the band in 2013 and Gordon Moakes left the band in 2015. This is where Justin Harri and Louise Bartle came in.

Hymns is an interesting effort. \s I already mentioned, it is the first album Bloc Party has made in four years, but it is also the first album the new lineup has recorded together. And somehow it manages to both work as a wall of sound album, with religious undertones, and simultaneously alienate fans of their older work. In other words, it’s not really like the smash first album Silent Alarm and their dancier third album, Intimacy.

But what’s the problem?

Why it doesn’t work is because it never quite reaches the levels of spiritual praise that it claims to be striving for. It’s an album half baked. But when it does work it’s because they stop pretending to be making dance music with religious redemption and just talk about the issues they care about. This is where Okereke’s vocals have always been strongest and where the heart of Bloc Party lies.

Instead with Hymns we get to see Okereke in control of the show, existing in a space between soul and gospel, but he does still love his electronica. Stand out tracks include Into The Earth, So Real, and Living Lux, but overall the rest of the songs are just okay. It’s so strange because this was one of the 21st centuries golden children, they were pioneering in 2005 what has now become the norm in modern rock. But their exploration of music and lryics as a slow and forced movement into a more mature sound just doesn’t quite work yet. This truly is Bloc Party 2.0, but I’m not entirely convinced that the upgrade has been worth it.

It may be because half of the original band has left, and the party has left with them, but Different Drugs best demonstrates the future of the band, and incidentally may be a code for the reason why the band started to break up in the first place. If reinvention is supposed to be cool, I think it just got cold in this house.

 

 

 

Now I don’t necessarily think that Bloc Party “got religion” in the wake of the band experiencing inner turmoil, but it is interesting that self-reflection usually breeds this kind of behavior. And I’m willing to bet we haven’t seen the last of Bloc Party, that an awesome team-up style fight is in the not-too-distant future, but I’ve been burnt before.

So should you buy this album? Well I don’t think it’s amazing, but still, it’s a decent listen. Fortunately enough, I just might have a redemption movie in store for tomorrow. What do you think? Is Hymns marred with too much self-worship? Are my theories on the mark?

Tim!

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