First was 2005's Silent Alarm, a masterstroke in indie if ever there was one. Then came 2007's A Weekend In The City; musically understated and punctuated with biting political statements and fragments of loves lost. One year later came Intimacy, a roaring beast of a record, where the doors were blown off and a Molotov cocktail of electronica was chucked in for good measure. And 2012 brought Four, a bolshy, brash, quite fittingly explosive end to the original quartet.
Raw to refined, intimate to explosive, the rollercoaster of Bloc Party was something to behold.
So here we are. Hymns. Where once they were paving the way for guitar music, now Okereke, Lissack and the new recruits are playing catch up, in a musical world they've been out of for four years. But they don't do a bad job at all of keeping up appearances - and on a concept album, no less.
Opener - and lead single - "The Love Within" is a straight up low-key floorfiller (and even better live - take it from me). A great opener for an album. Don't forget the metaphorical *look to camera* that is the achingly familiar opening line: 'Lord give me grace and dancing feet...'; but Bloc Party, this is not. This is - as Kele Okereke said himself at the 6Music Live gig - 'Bloc Party Mk. II'.
Throughout the rest of the album, we have a nod or two to A Weekend In The City. Staccato machine-gun guitar and bits of radio static in the solo of "Only He Can Heal Me" - bringing to mind "Hunting For Witches" - and due to the accompanying chorus, the band's blistering 2006 single "The Prayer". "Different Drugs" comes out almost as a freak amalgamation of A Weekend...'s "On" and Intimacy's "Biko" - which is no bad thing and is a clear highlight of the album, sparse simple drums allowing Okereke's voice to stand out. "The Good News" brings a new, unheard Americana-like quality, with its guitar slide and foot-stomp of a beat.
As "Living Lux" draws to a close, we have lyrics that romanticise a relationship. It was good while it lasted, but it's over. So whether this album tells its own story - from "The Love Within" to the closer - or whether it reincarnates the band is anyone's guess. I'm just glad they're back in whatever form.
All in all, Hymns is a strong album from what is effectively a new band. A platform from which to build. As a big fan, my personal feelings are that I hope they're a ticking timebomb, not a damp squib. Don't treat them like the old quartet - because they're not. But I'm excited about what they could be.