The first time I saw Bloc Party was at Revival in Toronto in 2004. They had just released their first EP and a single called Banquet. A little like Interpol meets Franz Ferdinand meets The Rapture they had a tight sound and high urgent energy that, at the time, left me feeling elevated. I obviously was not the only one tapped into the urgent energy that was reminiscent of a blend of New York City and London. It’s likely not an accident that they named their debut LP Silent Alarm. Along with the rest of the Toronto early adopters, we very non-silently danced up a storm, leaving a puddle of sweat on the floor. It was obvious that if they were able to keep this up, they were going to have a really good career.
Once fame has set in, few bands make the courageous choice to depart from the sound their fans have come to love, and label executives depend upon, to explore new sonic territories and themes. Labels expect hits; only loyal fans accept diversity within a band’s repertoire. A famous example of the pressure an artist faces balancing creating from the sphere of serving the creativity arising and crafting for others is the case in the 1980s where Neil Young was sued by his record label David Geffen for making a record that was “unrepresentative” of his music and that he had violated his contract.
So when Bloc Party came out with their new record and BMG ran with it, the courage and freedom demonstrated by both parties is to be applauded.
The LP is called Hymns and it celebrates ideas quite different from previous records. The record begins with a song called The Love Within. We were immediately pulled into a new world on this leadoff track by gyrating electronic pulsations. Bloc Party invites, even urges, its listeners into a world of new possibilities. The passion, commitment and courage to leave the grip of fear, summons the light of angels to move into new understanding of reality. The Love Within is quite simply one of the best tracks of 2016.
The second track explores the notion of God-consciousness, surrender of will and a belief in a higher power. Unfortunately, from here, the record fizzles. There are other good tracks, like My True Name and Living Lux, but overall the album starts with a adamancy of I Am and then kind of falls asleep on the wings of an angel. The record also doesn’t track well when listened to as one complete piece. The leadoff track pulls you in and the rest just lulls and lacks cohesion.
Regardless, Hymns is not only a statement, it’s an invocation and a sharing of Kele Okereke’s journey into spirituality without letting go of his dance punk roots. I, like Bloc Party, have grown up since Silent Alarm came out. That means the ideals I believed in then have been tested, life has shown me a depth of perspective, experience has given me a new axis of my understanding of love and shown me a sense of purpose. This is what I love about Bloc Party’s new record. It is vulnerable, honest and courageous, with still enough grit to remind us to celebrate our eternal youth from the vantage point of more wisdom and compassion. So for anyone looking for contemporary music with substance in its lyrics and a celebration of life regardless of what has come our way, do check out Hymns.
Here is a link to Bloc Party’s The Love Within music video. Play it loud and don’t forget to take off your shoes, feel the earth, invite the angels and let the love consume us.
Rishi Deva is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.