It's hard to sing the praises of Hymns. Half filler, half (nearly) killer, Bloc Party's new line-up my have reinvigorated the band, but that's not come through in their music.
Bloc Party burst on to the scene way back in 2005 with the superb album Silent Alarm and since then it’s fair to say the band has been through some…. changes. A Weekend in the City didn’t do as critically well as its predecessor, while Intimacy took the band in some frankly weird directions. Their comeback album, Four, was released in 2012, but, honestly, was overshadowed by much better albums. With a new drummer and bassist on board, Hymns sees the band apparently take on a refreshed mantra, with front man Kele seeming to be excited at the prospect of taking on new challenges.
So I guess you could say there was a fair amount of buzz surrounding Hymns; to see where Bloc Party would go with their sound. To its credit, Hymns is relatively surprising at times. There’s a certain sound that Bloc Party have captured that lands somewhere between A Weekend in the City and Intimacy, with some new elements thrown in every now and then. Opening track ‘The Love Within’ is probably Bloc Party’s best single since ‘One More Chance’ way back in 2009, and is a dream of Nu-Rave nostalgia with that trademark Indie Pop sound. Follow up track ‘Only He Can Heal Me’ would have happily fit in on Intimacy, and that’s a good thing!
So that’s the real highlight of this album, everything else is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some tracks on here where Bloc Party dish out some alright tracks, that don’t blow the audience away, but aren’t awful either. It’s kind of one stop away from being Indie filler; you wouldn’t choose to listen to it on your iPod, but you wouldn’t turn it off if it came on in the background at a party. The rest of the songs on here are pretty dull, unenlightened and generally very tame; indie landfill.
‘The Good News’ is one of the tracks that falls into the latter category. Its chugging bass sounds like a Proclaimers’ song, while its slide guitar and harmonious vocals over the chorus are a pretty redundant attempt to make the song interesting. Then we have ‘My True Name’, which is an uninspired, free flowing ballad that doesn’t take any risks and therefore is pretty unrewarding. I feel a similar way about closing track ‘Living Lux’ as well. There are points where the repetitive beats feel like they’re growing into something, but it doesn’t and leaves the listener deflated. Poor show, Bloc Party.
Better songs come from the likes of ‘Fortress’ which is based almost entirely on minimalist beats and Kele’s reverb soaked vocals. It’s a passionate performance that doesn’t entirely blow away the listener but makes for some pretty pleasant listening. ‘Into the Earth’ on the other hand takes Bloc Party closer to their roots with a ‘This Modern Love’ vibe. ‘Rock and roll has got so old’ Kele croons, which is, judging by this album, apparently evident. And y’know what, I also have a slight soft spot for ‘Virtue’, which takes on some dubstep meets electronic drum beats and staggered synthesisers over chunky guitar riffs. Kele’s vocals even sound full of soul, which is a nice surprise.
On the whole, Hymns isn’t a terrible album, it’s just feels very deflated and lacklustre. There are some tracks on here that are… enjoyable, to be kind. However some of these songs are just plain boring. It’ll be interesting to see whether Bloc Party continue to operate, but you have to give them credit for continuing this long, even with some pretty disappointing albums. Kudos, Bloc Party, kudos.