By Van Williams, Contributor
Key Tracks: “The Love Within,” “So Real,” “My True Name”
Bloc Party have been putting out quality “indie rock” for the better part of the last 10 years. When they released Silent Alarm in 2005, they were greeted with open arms from the indie rock community. Since then they have consistently been in the Billboard Top 200, and loved by fans of indie pop and electronic music alike. After their second hiatus in 2013, they have returned with half of the original lineup to release Hymns.
The album starts out with one of its strongest tracks, “The Love Within.” Listeners are immediately greeted by heavy synth and pounding bass drums–it’s exactly what would be expected from the British group. The track is massive, sounding like an assault from all sides as the beat pulses and the vocals echo throughout. The vocals are as crisp as ever and the production is top notch. The album continues in this fashion to the third track, “So Real.” “So Real” is more laid back, smooth, delicate and beautiful. “What am I supposed to do, when the only good thing about me was you?” vocalist and frontman Kele Okereke wonders aloud in stunning fashion. With all of these high points, one might wonder why this record is only worth two and a half stars–to answer that question, let’s explore a little further.
After the third track the record continues to trudge forward, and although this is done smoothly, it never really ventures into any new ground. There’s nothing exciting, or immediately accessible or memorable. It’s standard indie pop music, and that’s fine, but this is a band that set the bar much higher in the past. When someone thinks Bloc Party, they think exciting or innovative; here there is nothing new to be found. You could easily throw this on in the background of a party and not hear a single complaint, but when sitting down and actually listening to the record in its entirety, getting from track one to track 11 proves to be an arduous task.
There is one diamond within the rough that is the album’s b-side–a track called “My True Name.” Kicked off by a catchy guitar riff and some stunning production quality, this track could be immediately recognized as the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, there are three tracks following it to slow things back down again.
Overall, this is a fine album, but not what is expected or even happily received from veterans of a scene that they helped innovate. So, sure–throw this on at a party, play it as background noise while doing homework, but don’t expect what made us all love Bloc Party in the first place, or something at all fresh from the British quartet.