The ten-year anniversary of Silent Alarm marked in 2015 was a telling reminder of the promise that Bloc Party once embodied. Whether sparking think pieces or simply a fondness for a debut that’s stood the test of a decade, the discussion around Bloc Party carried with it the sorry possibility that the band may not get around to making another album. After the departure of Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes, seen by many as the spiky, rhythmic driving force that underpinned the band, returning with album number five was never going to be an easy score for the new-look Bloc Party.
Leading with the divisive pair of ‘The Love Within’ and ‘The Good News’ hardly smoothed things over for those questioning their mettle, but the obnoxious electronic stabs and corny slide guitar don’t turn out to be true pointers for HYMNS as a whole. It’s a return that represents a band rejuvenated, bursting with ideas, even if not all of those ideas have been sufficiently vetted. But then coming from a band whose previous single was ‘Ratchet’, it’s perhaps no surprise that there’s still investment required when it comes to quality control.
For fans of old, there are stylistic reference points to be found in the ground between A Weekend In The City and Intimacy, but HYMNS is a record that showcases a band moving forward. Kele’s evolution as both a lyricist and performer demonstrate aptly the environment out of which Bloc Party now create, and his reflection on this record is as forthright as ever. The feeling of hope and positivity that shone through on tracks like ‘Truth’ from the previous LP, are now at the forefront of Okereke’s intentions. At times his delivery can come off a little crass, with lyrics about carrier bags in trees souring the spiritual angle that Okereke channels, but it also makes clear that for Bloc Party to try and pull off the same tricks as in their mid-noughties pomp would now feel hollow and insincere.
There are moments on this record that strike of real brilliance; eerie, stirring and beautiful in a way that former incarnations of the band barely tapped in to. Indeed, on tracks like ‘Only Heal Can Heal Me’ and ‘Different Drugs’, Bloc Party sound as forceful and poignant as at any time since ‘A Weekend In The City’. When taken at full view, HYMNS comes out as fairly middling, but far from the tombstone that many predicted, it plays out more as a stepping-stone – a certain indicator that there are healthy days to come from the new-look Bloc Party.
Buy: Bloc Party – Hymns