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Bloc Party - Hymns (Album Review)

Friday, 29 January 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

‘Hymns’, Bloc Party’s fifth long player, is their first release since 'The Nextwave Sessions' almost three years ago, but tellingly it’s also the first without bassist Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong behind the kit.

In 2005 the band’s brilliant debut, ‘Silent Alarm’, took the breath away, with the exciting rhythm section of Tong and Moakes matched for enthralling intensity by vocalist Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack. Bloc Party were an outfit bursting with vigour.

The first single from this new collection, The Love Within, also acts as the album’s opener and is a pulsating effort that shouldn’t be dismissed too lightly, despite a cheesy synth line that tests the appreciation skills somewhat.

Another track to have appeared prior to the album’s release is The Good News. It’s a much better cut, albeit one that moves at a slower pace and leads to a doomy chorus with the slightest fleck of a country twang.

Other highlights are far harder to find than on previous outings, though. There is simply too much mediocrity on offer, from the dreary Fortress and Exes to the annoying Into The Earth and the confused, bland My True Name. Even the album’s closer, Living Lux, fails to sign off satisfyingly, with light atmospherics doing little to lead the track anywhere of note.

So Real does its best to go against the grain with its despairing plea: “What am I supposed to do when the only good thing about me was you?” But, despite punchy guitars, it fails to ignite sufficiently to attract endless plays. Virtue is another near miss, an almost exciting track that falls agonisingly short of something intriguing despite heading into the past which, sadly, seems like an awful long time ago now.

The pick of the lot is probably Different Drugs, but again it’s not the Bloc Party the band’s oldest fans will be hoping to find, sounding more like a distant cousin of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy. Unfortunately, the thrill and urgency that attracted listeners to the band is all but gone and Tong’s absence, perhaps remarkably for a drummer, cannot be overstated.

Subsequently, while it’s not quite a final death rattle, ‘Hymns’ signals that the end may not be too far off. Okereke’s solo career, for example, looks a lot rosier after the captivating ‘Trick’.

Bloc Party Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri January 29 2016 - CARDIFF University Great Hall
Sat January 30 2016 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall
Mon February 01 2016 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue February 02 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu February 04 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Fri February 05 2016 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Sat February 06 2016 - MANCHESTER Academy
Mon February 08 2016 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Tue February 09 2016 - CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Thu February 11 2016 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Fri February 12 2016 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham

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