Bloc Party have returned after their 2013 hiatus with the album Hymns, with a sound that is dramatically different to that of their past. Rather than ascending to powerful, drum led choruses, Hymns repeatedly lacks memorable choruses, making it hard to know where one track ends and another begins.
A problem that soon becomes apparent with the album is that Bloc Party lay all the foundations for a powerful and memorable tracks, yet never quite reach that promised potential. The lyrics are repetitive and you will find yourself humming along at the time but a few hours later, you probably won’t even remember the name of the track. As a rule the tempo stays pretty regular (and that is very slow), with simple riffs and chord patterns that continue for large parts during a lot of the tracks.
There are a few exceptions to this initial impression, including the track ‘Virtue’. ‘Virtue’ builds for a minute before reaching a chorus with strong chord patterns making it more memorable than the previous few tracks. However, it can still be criticised for potentially being over simplified. There are only two sounds, a simple drum beat and synthesised chords that are reminiscent of a year nine music lesson. Not the sort of sound that makes you want to get up and move like ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Flux’ did from the band’s back catalogue, but maybe just to tap your foot instead, or even just skip the track altogether.
However, the final track, ‘Living Lux’ is more reminiscent of Bloc Party’s earlier work, using reverberation and heavy synthesisers throughout the duration of the song with Kele’s lyrics layered on top. But once again, the climax of the song is never reached and therefore never feels fully finished. Hopefully the band’s plans to release more tracks soon will be potentially more heavily inspired by their previous work that made them so successful in the past.
Hymns is a dramatic change of style when compared to the earlier and most recognisable Bloc Party songs from the 2005 album Silent Alarm, but who can really blame them when they’ve had such a dramatic shift in the structure of the band since then. They must be doing something right to have been releasing music since 2005, and have proved their breadth and talent as demonstrated by the sheer number of tracks released. Therefore, even if it was maybe not what was expected and hoped for from Bloc Party, fans loyal to the band will still be able to enjoy, and those who are new to Bloc Party might take a liking too.