Bloc Party’s ‘Hymns’ is a slog of an album

Annie Zaleski

Bloc Party Hymns

Two stars

That Bloc Party’s Hymns exists is almost miraculous. The U.K. quartet has gone on hiatus twice since 2009, and in recent years lost its formidable rhythm section, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong. In light of that turbulence, it’s no surprise Hymns sounds quite different from the rest of Bloc Party’s albums. Instead of forceful post-punk or danceable electro-pop, the record hews toward amorphous, sleepy indie rock with keyboard-y accents (“So Real”) and hushed, minimalist R&B (“Fortress”). Although frontman Kele Okereke is well-suited for these styles, Hymns is a slog to get through. New bassist Justin Harris (who’s also in Menomena) and the session drummer employed here (full-timer Louise Bartle joined later) don’t have much to work with; arrangements tend to be slight and sterile—save for “Virtue” and the soulful “Only He Can Heal Me,” which both incorporate spacious ’80s synth-rock and oceanic melodies reminiscent of early New Order. And on “The Good News,” even gospel-inspired vocal harmonies and handclaps can’t save clunky lines like, “I used to find my answers in the gospels of St. John/Now I find them at the bottom of this shot glass.” Overall, Hymns sounds tentative and almost bored with itself, which makes for a rather forgettable album.

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