Banquet, Helicopter and So Here We Are were three of my favourite tracks of 2005. Bloc Party were also one of my favourite bands throughout that year with the release of their incredibly confident, strong and well-received debut album, Silent Alarm. 2007 would see them battle “the difficult second album” syndrome with A Weekend In The City. Again, this was met with decent reviews from both fans and critics. After releasing that and touring with it for a bit, it all just…went to shit? They released third album, Intimacy in 2008 and it wasn’t great. The electro had come out of nowhere and it was too in your face and different to what we loved about the band in the first place. Lead-singer of the band, Kele Okereke went off and did some solo things (more heavy electro) and the band suffered some riffs backstage. I’m not talking about the guitar type of riffs either. I’m talking fisticuffs. Fistiriffs? Look, THEY FELL OUT! Nobody in the band really likes talking about it but we all know it happened and they did the whole “hiatus” thing. All of a sudden, other indie bands were incorporating a fresh electro sound alongside their guitars. These were now the new kids on the bloc(k), jumping in to the apparent gap in the market. Bloc Party made up in 2011 for fourth album, Four which once you’d listened to Octopus twenty-times during your first play through, you realise the band were never going to hit the same note that they did with their debut. In 2013, the band went on a then indefinite hiatus fuelling rumours of a split.
Today however sees the release of fifth album, Hymns. And I’m very surprised to report that I actually really like it. I’ve been listening to it on the bus journey to and from work most of this week and it’s a grower but definitely one that becomes a show-er. They’re still very much an indie-electro band but with a line-up change and fresh approach to writing and creating music, it’s clear to see that they’re here to take centre stage yet again.
As the new album is available to stream for free online already, I’m not going to review every song as we normally do but instead mention some of the stand-out tracks that feature.
Love Within was offensive to our ears when both myself and Stu heard it for the first time. I recollect texting one another about how awful it was and how we didn’t want to hear it ever again if we could help it. Stu even reviewed it which you can read here. A couple of weeks later and our attitude had changed drastically as we agreed it was now one of our favourite songs of 2015. Hearing it open up the album and my view is still of a positive nature. It’s one of the standout tracks on the 11 track album and clear to see why they chose it as the comeback single.
The good news is that there are some guitar-laden tracks on the album and this is rather prominent in the track, The Good News. This song is basically providing a message saying don’t let the shit stuff in life get you down. Focus on the positives. Deep.
Exes is a song we can all relate to. We’ve all got them whether it’s for the better or worse but in an Adele-esque approach to songwriting; the band reflect on lost loves and where things went wrong. It’s understandably one of the slower songs on the album to emphasise the emotion and turmoil often involved when you love someone but it’s an overall great track and one that would no doubt work well live. Who hurt you Kele? Who hurt you?!
“What am I supposed to do, when the only good thing about me was you?” A question Kele wants answering on So Real. Bloc Party are sounding more and more like Adele in this review with their reminiscing and all. Comparisons aside, the track is a really good one. The electro is kept to a minimum and sounds like a track they’ve had floating about since 2005 but threw away to make room for an absolute hit. As aforementioned they want the centre stage of indie-electro back and with this right balance and middle ground between indie and out & out electro, the songs they’ve produced will no doubt please both old and new fans.
Considering I wasn’t best pleased when Bloc Party went full-blown electro in 2008, I love the track Virtue which is pretty much electro-central. Maybe I was too harsh with my opinion when they wanted to explore other genres to discover their sound. Sorry guys (And now also girl), I’ll have to revisit the Intimacy album to see if I can find some sort of appreciation for it that I couldn’t before.
In summary, this latest offering confirms that Bloc Party are now very comfortable distancing themselves from the guitar-heavy tracks and want to remain using electro sounds as a primary backdrop to their catchy reflections on life. This isn’t a bad thing per-say because the talent, guitars and strong lyrics are still there which makes these tracks stand out a lot more. They’re just not as blatant as they once were. This album is one of the most personal so far with subtle references to the break-up of the original band and suggestions at how everyone dealt with the hiatus with Kele referencing his struggle between choosing to be a good guy (the bible) or the bottle.
I’m very interested to see how the new tracks slot in to the back catalogue that we all know and love. Roll on Tuesday where I’ll be able to find out as they headline this year’s NME Awards Tour. This album marks a new chapter in Bloc Party illustrious career and it’s an exciting change. One I’m more than ready for. It’s definitely time to put the cutlery away for now though as the Banquet has definitely finished.
Words by Robert Smith(@robertmsmith)