Bias shall mislead listeners. They shall assume that Hymns is going to be another frantic indie rock album that draws on the legacy created by Bloc Party’s electrifying debut album Silent Alarm. It was an album that defined an entire generation of indie rock. It defied all expectations and spawned a dizzying hybrid of punk, indie and garage rock. It paved the way for a new wave of UK indie rock that initially laid the seeds for the mainstream reception of indie music. It is this legacy that led many to expect that Bloc Party would emerge from their 2013 hiatus with yet another post-punk meets indie rock album. Unfortunately, their first release since their 2013 hiatus and the departure of Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong is anything but that.
Hymns is rather a quasi-religious electro-synth experience that would have sent pretentious white-boy fronted bands like The 1975 skyrocketing to success. For some reason, modern fans of indie rock have a penchant for boring and passionless synths produced with fancy effect pedals rather than the driving guitar riffs that used to dominate the indie rock revolution that the Bloc Party boldly led. It is the fact that Bloc Party led this revolution that causes Hymns to resemble something of a smoking train wreck.
There are a few moderately good moments in this lazy quasi-religious electro-synth album such as when Kele decided to be meta in “The Love Within” and makes a passing reference to Bloc Party’s classic single “The Prayer”. All-in-all, the song is actually pretty good. It has the driving synthetic pop melody that dominates a lot of A Weekend in the City. Hymns manages to be brilliant when it catches the occasionally whiff of the electric brilliance that made initially made Bloc Party so popular, but then they allowed for the passionless glorification of substance abuse to be included on the album in the form of “Different Drugs”.
Bloc Party could be praised for the fact that their synthetic sounds were not produced through synthesiser but through a variety of effects pedals that allowed Russell Lissack to produce the cookie-cutter indie rock synths that are present on hymns. Unfortunately, Lissack seems awfully fond of recycling the same synths on each song and thus barely even allowing for any differentiation in the core melodies driving the album. There are moments where they capture the creativity that used to be prevalent in their earlier albums such as in the post-rock meets blues hybrid that is “The Good News”. The only problem is that Kele Okereke uses that song to deliver pseudo-religious lyrics that hover between coveting God and being a borderline alcoholic. Despite this, he does manage to weave intricate lyrics that are reminiscent of the absurd poetic prose that he has consistently delivered throughout his career – if you are willing to wade through disillusioned philosophical concepts that often assume God and substance abuse to be the same thing, but I suppose this happens you view yourself to be the John Lennon of your generation.
It is here that Hymns becomes frustrating and becomes a lot more like a Kele solo album than anything else. Kele, whose lyrics used to be scribbled in bathrooms, gives you a reason to hate his lyrics in “Into The Earth”. He expresses his disillusionment with rock ‘n roll and describe himself as being “neo-soul”. It also becomes apparent that a large part of Hymns is reflective of his debut solo album and it is as if he decided to hijack his band’s for a selfless marketing campaign. Basically, Kele pulled a Brendon Urie and used his band’s name as a moniker for a solo project, but at least, Urie actually made a good album on its own rather than using a full band to produce a mediocre album that pales in comparison to their legacy.