North London quartet, Bloc Party return with their eagerly anticipated new album, Hymns this month. Since 2012’s Four the band has a new lineup following the departure of drummer, Matt Tong and Bassist, Gordon Moakes with replacement members Louise Bartle and Justin Harris stepping into their shoes (respectively).
With this change there has been an inevitable shift in their sound and influences, most notably Louise’s much softer drumming style when compared to her predecessor’s ferocity. Overall this shift has meant a departure from their post-punk beginnings and into newer and more experimental territory.
On the first listen, this latest offering from the quartet leaves the listener questioning what happened to the band that produced the likes of Silent Alarm? Any change in direction can be make or break for a band, especially one that has seen the early success of Bloc Party, but the latest material from Kele and Co is such a far cry from their début which may leave hardcore fans feeling a little alienated. Furthermore, unlike previous efforts, Hymns feels more like a collection of singles than an album. It features such an eclectic mix of styles that there’s no real continuity and it’s a jarring listen at best.
In complete honesty, I have to admit that opening track The Love Within set my teeth on edge. It’s an abstract track at best, mixing Kele’s best, soul-filled vocals with contrasting elements of happy hardcore which for me, just doesn’t quite gel. The ensuing tracks flit from soul to country to trance with the only elements gelling them together being their synth and Kele’s distinctive voice.
Lyrically, the album is thematic, featuring references to love, love lost and relationships throughout. It’s nothing new, but it’s well done in this respect. Kele’s ability to paint a frank picture of relationships is little rivalled and has become well honed over the last 14 years. Into the Earth, although much softer than their formative years, holds the closest comparison to their older material but much like the other tracks of the album, it lacks excitement and conviction and so fails to really take off.
Hymns will probably wind up as a good commercial effort as there’s a lot of single material and tracks that will work in the club and bar scene, but in my humble opinion, it falls short of the mark as an LP.