16 January, 2016

[ALBUM REVIEW] Bloc Party - Hymns

It would be safe to say that Bloc Party are one of my favourite bands of the past 10 years, so if this review seems a little bias then I'm sorry! The story of how this album starts way back when Bloc Party MK1 (the original Bloc line up with Matt and Gordon) ended during the period between their biggest headline date at Earls Court in London and Latitude Festival in late 2013. Matt had already left the band and Hot Chip's drummer was a short-term replacement, and in mid 2015 Gordon announced he left the band to focus on other projects. SO what of it? Well this left Kele and Russell, the FOUNDING two members of the project that we call Bloc Party, and after meeting way back in 1999 at Reading Festival their relationship was as strong as ever.

They moved forwards into the latter half of 2015 with optimism, Kele stunned Bloc Party fans by performing a new song called "Exes" on Triple J by himself then he announced that a fifth record was in progress, and as you'll about to find out, this has been a breath of fresh air for Bloc Party MKII.

The album opens with the dance-rock track "The Love Within", with screaming and torched guitar sounds the track initially wasn't one I was a fan of, but this is Kele and Russell let loose and it could herald a start of what's to come, apart from the fact that this might be the fasted song on the whole LP. As we move into "Only He Can Heal Me" it's laden with licks on piano, some lovely guitar tones in the latter third of the track, it really takes you back to their second album in ways.

"So Real" sees Kele take up a new instrument, the keyboard and piano, it's a slow track with a big focus on Kele's new ivory plaything, with some brooding bass-lines and a catchy chorus this cut seems like it's destined for those late night trips home after a bender, keep an eye out for Russell's solo around the 3 minute mark, it's nothing spectacular but I'm just pointing out to those fans who dig at Bloc Party for not having guitars in their songs any more, it's there! As proven with the following track, "The Good News" which features a choir as well as some bluesy guitar riffs.

(R-L) Kele, Louise, Justin & Russell

As we move into the second half of the LP we hear a stripped back synthy track called "Fortress", it sounds like "Montreal" if it was written with Keles solo work in mind, this has a massive whiff of a Kele solo track about it, unlike what's up next, maybe the best track on the whole album, and possibly the best track they've released for the past 5 years. "Different Drugs" really reminds me of "Signs" meets "Ion Square", it's an epic track, both in sound and length. It's sonic synths and reverb laden guitars provided by Russell give it a massive presence and as soon as the bass hits it's brimming with noise. The build-up is simply to die for, just give this a listen first if you're a bit sceptical about the album.

The next two tracks, "Into the Earth" and "My True Name" sounds like they were written a few years back as they sound like they'd fit perfectly into their last LP, "Four". They both feature the guitar (once again) as the prominent instrument and showcases a gentler side of the band, showing that they're growing up and are taking things slowly. Where as "Into the Earth" is a gentle song, "My True Name" has a dark bite to it, one thing is for sure, the production on this album is stunning, just turn up the volume on this one and take it all in!

As we're at the end of the LP next the band decide to throw in a curve ball, as you start to think it's all relaxed you have "Virtue" to listen to first, if anything the next single as this seems to be written for Radio 1 and Radio X, it's got a very big dance-vibe going on and seems to be yearning for a big remix, Kele's solo is much to be desired but all in all Russell's interesting guitar pedals give it more body and an extra angle.

"Exes" and "Living Lux" are the last two songs on the standard version of the album, and what a way to end, as you might know, "Exes" is widely regarded as a fan favourite now after Kele performed an acoustic version back in 2015 and the full band version more than lives to my expectations, apart from the weird guitar slide around the three minute mark this track has set the bar high for any future Bloc Party ballad. And as we end the latest Bloc Party album we part with a track that sums up Bloc Party MKII in a great way, synths, uplifting vocals and a mighty guitar. It builds and builds, and ends with just the echoing of Russell's guitar.

Bloc Party have really hit the nail on the head here, it's a progression that had to be done, every band does this but while to some this isn't 'Bloc Party' it certainly is. They always like to be different album to album and with the new members on board now they've got a bigger pool of influences to choose from. After the rocky "Four" LP this is a lovely turn, and after listening to it for the past week I've come to love it and accept this as a genuinely brilliant album, and like I said at the beginning... I'm not bias.

Bloc Party - Hymns
Out of 10: 8/10