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The Dose: New Bloc Party album a decent letdown

The Dose: New Bloc Party album a decent letdown

Courtesy | Bloc Party

The Dose: New Bloc Party album a decent letdown
February 25
00:11 2016

John Hoang | Staff Writer

@jhoang95

Retaining only half of its original members, Bloc Party has reinvented itself on its newest album to change with the times. But whether these changes were for the better is debatable—the album was met with mixed reviews from both critics and fans.

With “Hymns,” Bloc Party moved away from guitar-driven rock to focus on rhythm and blues, gospel and electronic music. If you tune in with the expectation of revisiting Bloc Party’s raw and passionate debut “Silent Alarm,” you’ll be disappointed.

The record explores themes of suffering in dysfunctional relationships, revisiting spirituality and moving on from the past. Upon listening to “The Love Within,” the first song on the album, I cringed—something I never expected to feel when listening to Bloc Party.

The song starts off on a decent note, but once the synthetic drops about 40 seconds in, it becomes atrocious. Thankfully, the album gets better.

“Different Drugs” and “Only He Can Heal Me” were my two favorite songs on the album.  The first captures the melancholy of a failing relationship, with lead singer Kele Okereke’s vocals striking an emotional chord. “Only He Can Heal Me,” a catchy, gospel-influenced track, shows Okereke’s vulnerability and lets the listener relate.

In “Fortress,” Okereke sings in passionate falsetto of a sexual experience with a lover. The lyrics were a little cheesy, but his voice was of enough quality to carry the song.

The final track, “Living Lux,” is a goodbye and homage to former drummer Matt Tong and bassist Gordon Moakes, which was a nice way to pay tribute to the band’s line-up.

Bloc Party recorded “Hymns” with a session drummer, and many were disappointed, saying the percussion tracks felt basic and unfulfilling. There’s hardly any guitar on this album.

It’s difficult to pinpoint any highlights, but at least the performance from lead guitarist Russell Lisack is solid. The vocals are also vigorous and energetic, even with the cheesiness of some lyrics.

Old fans may feel alienated from the changes in the band’s musical style, as almost no elements of their first album are apparent.

Even with repeated listens, the songs aren’t particularly memorable and the album didn’t grow on me as I hoped it would. When compared to other contemporary artists, it just falls short. I’m not against bands changing, but the direction Bloc Party took with this record produced lackluster music. 

“Hymns” isn’t a horrible album. It attempts to reach out on a more spiritual and personal level, which is something fans (and myself) can appreciate. The album lacks the energy and force of previous works and as a whole feels bland and uneven.

Besides a few standout tracks, “Hymns” leaves a lot to be desired.

Featured Image: Courtesy | Bloc Party

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