Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack return reinvigorated, with two new members and a record that's starkly emotional, yet celebratory too.
Bloc Party shot by Rachael Wright
The return of Bloc Party. Their fifth album, their first in four years, a record many thought would never happen since their hiatus back in 2013 left the band's future shadowed by a looming question mark. Singer Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack remain, and in the place of drummer Matt Tong and bassist Gordon Moakes, stand two new members: 21-year-old drummer Louise Bartle, found by the pair via YouTube, and bassist Justin Harris (formerly of Portland band Menomena). Additions, Okereke says, reinvigorated the band.
This is not the Bloc Party that released "Helicopter"—with its razored, relentless guitar licks and incisive beats and Kele's impassioned yelp, a song that burned its way through the musical landscape firing up indie dance floors at the tail end of 2004. It was an era that vibrated with the possibility and then the thrilling reality of homogenized mainstream music being overturned and subsequently trampled as the underdogs turned triumphant. It was 17 years ago that Okereke and Lissack formed the band, so yes, one would expect everything to be very different.
Giddy album opener "The Love Within," with its zinging, manipulated synths isn't so much indicative of the record as a whole. HYMNS is contemplative collection. Where some of their oldest, most beloved songs hurtled towards their conclusions with an angsty urgency, here Okereke entertains atmospherics and many moments of melodic calm. Meanwhile his lyrics are amongst the most starkly emotional he's ever sung.
"I see HYMNS as an exploration of all the things that I hold sacred in my life," explains Okereke. "I'm not a religious person however I'm starting to realize that i do have a spiritual dimension and HYMNS was a way of celebrating the things that matter to me, from the stars and the moon, through to the rivers and the sea, as well as the joys of sex and intimacy. It's when I experience these things that I feel I am in the presence of the divine, so I wanted the HYMNS to reflect that."
Listen to the album for the first time in full below and catch Bloc Party on tour this year.
Bloc Party Tour Dates
January 26 London, UK @ PIAS Nites
January 27 London, UK @ MTV Brand News
January 29 Cardiff, UK @ Great Hall*
January 30 Southhampton, UK @ O2 Guildhall
January 31 Kingston Upon Thames, UK @ The Hippodrome (Banquet Records)
February 1 Bristol, UK @ O2 Academy*
February 2 Nottingham, UK @ Rock City*
February 4 Newcastle, UK @ O2 Academy*
February 5 Glasgow, UK @ Barrowland*
February 6 Manchester, UK @ Academy*
February 8 Keeds, UK @ O2 Academy*
February 9 Cambridge, UK @ Corn Exchange*
February 11 Brixton, UK @ O2 Academy*
February 12 Birmingham, UK @ O1 Academy*
June 6 - 9 New York, NY @ Governors Ball Festival