Saturday, January 30, 2016
Album Review :: Bloc Party - Hymns
January 29 2016 (Infectious/BMG)
Words: Alison Mack
Fifth album (and a whopping four years since their last), new line-up, change of sound to sharper toned electronics, and, seemingly, by the title of this new work, either infused with the light of a new evangelism or at least some kind of spiritual fervour - despite Kele Okereke's insistence that the album is "not a religious epiphany", but deriving from a Hanif Kureishi talk he heard on religious art and imagery.
Whether it is or isn't, it is heavy on synths, heavy on contemplation, and draws from an intimate, confessional pool. What it's not is particularly overwhelming or able to rise above, at times, what can only be described as some lazy lyric writing.
Produced by Tim Bran and Roy Kerr (London Grammar), the bag of 11 tracks range from the good through to the bad. 'Only He Can Heal Me' is confessional and prayer-like - "There are times I feel the world has stolen my grace" - with backing chanting over a staccato vocal delivery, while 'The Good News' is a mid-tempo country jaunt of slide guitars. First single 'The Love Within' is a moot point and one track on which opinion seems fairly divided: a lot hate it; others, while not exactly loving it, feel it stands up. A dance-floor pop mover, but overwhelmed and dominated by Russell Lissack’s guitar.
Elsewhere, 'So Real’ is perhaps where the band sound like the Bloc Party of old in guitar sound, while the five-minute-plus 'Different Drugs' sees Okereke detailing lyrically a relationship's demise. Album closer 'Living Lux' is one of the more laid-back moments; a break-up song, where the singer wants to "spend my money on you."
Okereke said recently in interview how he's “never been too concerned with how people are going to react to things.” With the mixed reaction he is likely to receive with 'Hymns', he may well want to revise that with the next album.