When Bloc Party first stormed the gates of alt nation with their breakout single “Helicopter” in 2005, they provided the answer to a long-burning question: Who could bridge the gap between stodgy underground rock and the rapidly evolving world of dance music? “Helicopter” was a chugging, spasm-worthy call to arms, and Bloc Party’s debut, Silent Alarm, seemed to signify a brave new world. Since their debut, Bloc Party have spent the years in flux. They’ve wavered between lighters-up guitar-god urges (2007’s soaring sing-along anthem “I Still Remember”) and detours into various electronic rabbit holes (much of 2008’s pulsating Intimacy)—with mixed results. Their latest, Hymns, represents yet another rebirth, this time with a new rhythm section and a fresh batch of digital tricks. Frontman Kele Okereke has been more committed than most of his peers in trying to extract humanity from machines and infusing bloops and bleeps with something resembling a soul, and first single “The Love Within” may be his greatest feat in that regard. An insistent techno backbeat, mutated organ hums, and sliding robo-moans give way to a blissful chorus, where he declares, “The love within is moving upwards, sweeter than any drug.” From there, Hymns mutates. “Into the Earth” is a bluesy jangle, while “Fortress” has an icy, neo-soul throb. Okereke holds it all together with his warm croon and penchant for writing lyrics that search for spiritual salvation in the midst of corporeal pleasures. Bloc Party never became the saviors they were supposed to be, but putting out your best work after a decade of near-constant turmoil has to count for something. A–
'Hymns' by Bloc Party: EW review
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