Bloc Party are one of those bands who are almost indistinguishable from their early days. The indie rock band still consists the inimitable vocals of lead Kele Okereke but previous members Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes left the band in 2013 and ’15 respectively. Louise Bartle is new on percussion – Harris new to bass – and there is a distinctly different vibe to the London band. They burst onto the scene, changing their name before arriving at Bloc Party in 2003, and unleashed the epic Silent Alarm in 2005. Named Indie Album of the Year at the 2006 PLUG Awards and certified platinum in the U.K. – a stunning and assured introduction that signaled the band was primed for big things.
Although that album gained huge kudos, its follow-up (2007’s A Weekend in the City) split opinions and mindsets. Edgy, angry and hard to bond with at times: Sex, drug use and terrorism were key themes for Kele; areas that did put off some reviewers. From that album was born enormous confidence and a bravery to address deeper issues. Newest members Justin Harris and Louise Bartle began working with Bloc Party from 2015 and the most recent album, Hymns. Those hooked and mesmerised by classic Bloc’ tracks Helicopter and Banquet were somewhat perturbed by Hymns. As the title implies: The new album was more ecumenical and spiritual in tone; there is joyousness and fascinating songs (Different Drugs was widely lauded) but little of the spark and excellence that got critics drooling when first listening to Silent Alarm. Too minimal, beige and forlorn to connect and rekindle that magic – many questioned whether Bloc Party were a spent force.
New stand-alone single Stunt Queen is the first new material from the rejigged line-up since the album and is a racy and urgent thing. Buzzing electronics, moody bass and staunch percussion offer up glimpses of the older Bloc Party. Departing from the praising and semi-religious tones of Hymns: Kele tells his subject they “better start talking”. There – perhaps a flat or debt collecting – to collect and not shoot the breeze: It bristles with danger and violence; funkier and fiercer than their recent work. “I’ve got friends in high places” the lead atones as the composition twangs, bounces and strikes in the background. Despite some weight threats; Kele’s voice is perhaps not as direct and fierce as it could be – the composition is decidedly light and passive throughout.
It is good to see Bloc Party try to return to the flavor of Silent Alarm’s finer tracks: A more eerie, seductive and shadowy brand of electro. indie rock. Stunt Queen is nowhere near the obtuse, angled and exhilarating joyride of Helicopter but shows signs the next Bloc Party album could be a return-to-form. If they spend some more time remembering why were celebrated and heralded on their debut – we could well see a rebirth worthy of a band who still have plenty to say.