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Bloc Party are the definition of the word ‘evolution’. If you listen back to the sharp indie tones they burst onto the scene with ‘Silent Alarm’ back in 2005, you would struggle to believe that you’re listening to the same band now in 2016. Technically though, you aren’t listening to the same band. Only one half of the original lineup remains, with the band citing increased tension and disagreement in the barracks the reasoning for this.
What Bloc Party do here on ‘Hymns’ is, at the root of it all, be consistently inconsistent. This is something we’ve come to expect of them. Although after their debut they didn’t evolve the sound too much on 2006’s ‘A Weekend in the City’, third record ‘Intimacy’ was a full-on revolution in terms of the sound they created. Focusing more upon dance and electronic than indie rock, it was a brave and bold move that saw tracks such as ‘Flux’ and ‘One More Chance’ becoming massive Bloc Party staples, just sans guitars. Fourth album ‘Four’ was the weakest in this evolution, where the collapse of the band was seemingly imminent, and a Kele Okereke solo album showing where this evolution stemmed from. Now, none of this is necessarily a bad thing; It shows they can develop and evolve beyond being a one trick pony. But to the extent shown here, where one track is barely similar to the next, you find it hard to engage and follow the record. But, it’s still entertaining, as much as a McDonald’s burger is still food, but it’s not so exciting, so you just don’t Instagram it.
Opener ‘The Love Within’ was our first look at this second coming of Bloc Party, and it was met with a mixed reaction. The sound itself is not too dissimilar to that of ‘Four’ or ‘Intimacy’, but it’s the approach they take that lends itself to the confused reception. It seems almost abrasive in its attempts to be an opening statement telling us this record won’t be a return to 2005-era Bloc Party. This continues through to ‘Only He Can Heal Me’, which is a soft, yet dark dance track.
Track four ‘Good News’ becomes almost the Bloc Party twist on country, with a devilish helping of slide guitar that complements the chord structure beautifully. Of course, the next track is the exact opposite: ‘Fortress’ is soft, a sentimental dance track that relies upon a low rumble of bass to push it forward with synthesised drums providing the percussion rather than the human equivalent found in new drummer Louise Bartle.
‘Into Earth’ has a softer version of the twinned, alternating guitar progressions we’ve come to love and adore from both Okereke and co-guitarist Russell Lissack. Think ‘Banquet’, but if it was given some Valium. “You’ve seen the colour of my cash, does it not impress you, was I too flash?” is sung almost seductively by Okereke. The majority of the record from here carries on into a similar fashion: there are no particular fast numbers per se, and it all remains at a steady tempo, which can at times be a bit of a struggle to get through.
This is an evolution that Bloc Party have taken which, on an artistic level, has a lot of merit, though strictly it wasn’t necessary. While on the previous two albums, they’d already broken past being a straightforward guitar band and proving they had more to say, this new LP feels like an accumulation of trying to bury that past forever and sending out a new statement of who they are what they do now. Obviously it breaks boundaries and attempts new sounds, but at the same, it can be quite dull. Hopefully with time the new lineup will begin to pull together a sound that is a more controlled culmination of everything they’ve done so far rather than a proverbial smorgasbord of anything and everything.
Bloc Party’s fifth album ‘Hymns’, their first in 4 years, is out now on Infectious Records in the UK and Vagrant Records in North America. They’re currently headlining the NME Awards tour through next Friday, the 12th of February at Birmingham Academy. They’ll also be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in Bristol the weekend directly after, as well as SXSW 2016 in March in Austin. To read more coverage on Bloc Party on TGTF, head here.
Welsh rock trio The Joy Formidable have just unveiled details of their new album ‘Hitch’, along with a list of UK tour dates for next month. ‘Hitch’ was recorded in the band’s North Wales studio and will be released on the 25th of March via their own label C’Mon Let’s Drift. You can watch the provocatively graphic (read: NSFW) video for the album’s first single ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’ just below the tour date listing.
Laura J Martin will play support for the following February UK dates. Tickets are on sale now. Our extensive past coverage of The Joy Formidable is right back here.
Sunday 21st February 2016 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Monday 22nd February 2016 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Tuesday 23rd February 2016 – London Oslo
Wednesday 24th February 2016 – Birmingham Rainbow Courtyard
Thursday 25th February 2016 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Header photo by Laura Allard-Fleischl
Fresh off a run of January support dates for The Maccabees, London indie rockers The Big Moon have announced a spring headline tour of the UK and Ireland. The new list of dates will follow the band’s mid-March trip to America for SXSW 2016. Fellow TGTF writer Rebecca introduced the all-female quartet in a Bands to Watch feature right back here.
Support for The Big Moon’s following live dates will be played by Virgin Kids. Tickets are available now.
Wednesday 30th March 2016 – Nottingham Bodega Social Club
Thursday 31st March 2016 – Hull Adelphi
Friday 1st April 2016 – Newcastle Think Tank
Saturday 2nd April 2016 – Glasgow Stereo
Monday 4th April 2016 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Tuesday 5th April 2016 – Dublin Workman’s Club
Thursday 7th April 2016 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Friay 8th April 2016 – Leicester Cookie
Saturday 9th April 2016 – Cardiff Moon Club (Dim Swn Festival)
Monday 11th April 2016 – Bristol Start the Bus
Tuesday 12th April 2016 – Southampton Joiners Arms
Wednesday 13th April 2016 – London 100 Club
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 6:00 pm
Ask most anyone here: it sure is a scary, uncertain time here in America. Minneapolis electronic group Polica clearly agree, as their latest promo video for ‘Wedding’, from their upcoming third album ‘United Crushers’, shows. Scenes of militarised police are included alongside scenes of a brightly coloured, Sesame Street-style setup starring frontwoman Channy Leaneagh. In the politically charged video, she teaches children about peaceful protests – even showing in a craft class how to make your own teargas mask – and safe practices around police. It’s both weirdly powerful and sad that such a video had to be made, and unsettling as this is, it’s reflective of the world we live in now.
‘United Crushers’ by Polica will be released on the 4th of March on Memphis Industries (UK) / Mom+Pop (US) / Pod + Inertia. Channy Leanagh and co. will be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in less than a fortnight now in Bristol (all the details here), followed by a now sold out gig at London Village Underground on the 15th of February. The band also will be appearing at SXSW 2016. For more on Polica on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 12:00 pm
Peter and David Brewis are two intelligent guys who don’t sit still for very long. Or ever. Sometimes I wonder if they’re just musical vampires and don’t sleep at all. Last year, the composed soundtrack to the 1929 documentary Drifters that they were commissioned to compose by the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival was released to the wild. In 2014, while David was putting together his latest School of Language album ‘Old Fears’, his older brother Peter went off with frontman of Maximo Park Paul Smith for their own LP ‘Frozen by Sight’. Last year, I also saw them moonlighting as part of fellow Sunderland musician SLUG’s (Ian Black) backing band at the Great Escape 2015. So yes, while the last ‘true’ Field Music album was 2012’s ‘Plumb’, they haven’t exactly been sitting around the Good Apple Cafe, twiddling their thumbs.
The most noteworthy thing news-wise that’s happened to the Brewis brothers recently is Prince’s apparent discovery of them in early December. Evidently, the Purple One had a pleasurable head bop to the first single off of ‘Commontime’, ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’, just as we have had here at TGTF Towers. (You can read Steven’s thoughts on the single here.) The inherent catchiness of the melody, matched with the always intriguing percussion of Field Music, is great already. But what makes the song truly a winner are the lyrics, which I think most people are reading literally as the acceptance of “getting on”, growing older and eventually the end.
I can’t help but read it within my own as well as in a musician’s context: those of us who are long past our school days but still go out to shows (or play them), who don’t do normal things like take the bus and go to bed at an acceptable hour, are looked upon as oddities and weirdos. It’s not that we’re going out of our way to be weirdos. It just *is*. To me, the song is a statement that we’re not going to change our ways. Which is something I feel must be a credo for this pair of talented bros. Throughout this delightful 14-track collection of tunes, there’s satisfying elements of pop and funk, sometimes together on the same track, and this combination with incisive lyrics makes Field Music what they are.
The Sunderland duo have pretty much cornered the market in art rock these days, and they don’t show any signs of changing their tune (no pun intended). With the off-kilter drums and guitars – neither of which I can be sure could be said to be leading or following – and its almost spat out words, ‘I’m Glad’ is bonkers, and amusingly so. ‘Same Name’ seems like a bunch of things were thrown into a pot at once – jerky guitar notes, other bits of noodling guitar, atypical drum patterns, piano chord crashes – and somehow, otherwise cacophonous, disparate elements manage to play nice enough with each other to come together as a relatively cohesive song. The vocal delivery of the verses of ‘They Want You to Remember’ is pretty pop, gently reined in to accompany a beautiful string section. But then the oom-pah-pah rhythm of the chorus comes in, and you’re reminded we’re not in mainstream land. Which is perfectly fine by me.
The other day I heard a Charlie Puth song called ‘One Call Away’. It’s not a terrible love song – it’s what passes for MOR pop on American top 40 radio these days – but the lyrics are pretty groanworthy. Contrast them to those of ‘Disappointed’, in which our protagonist asks for forgiveness for minor offenses in the context of a long-term relationship that seems to be a Pretty Good Thing otherwise. On the ultra funky and album standout ‘It’s a Good Thing’, the merit of giving up your singledom and pulling away from the pretense of “being fixed to the ocean” is explored: “It’s a good thing to give yourself away. It’s a good thing to give yourself to someone else.” And perhaps I’m the only one, but I can’t help laugh to myself when on a Field Music album I’m being sung to with a particularly clever line. In ‘Don’t You Want to Know?’, the listener is asked, “don’t you want to know what’s wrong with you?”, as well as encouraged (or perhaps mocked) to “time to use your brain”. Can you imagine the look on a top 40 station boss’ face upon hearing that?
‘Commontime’ also marks the return of keyboardist Andrew Moore, who hasn’t appeared on a Field Music album since 2007’s ‘Tones of the Town’. His contribution of twinkly notes and organ buzzes are appreciated on ‘But Not for You’, ‘That’s Close Enough’ (in which the piano stands up to a ghostly guitar solo) and the instrumental bridge of ‘They Want You to Remember’, where they are particularly effective. As mentioned earlier, there’s also a string section that appears on some tracks of this album, adding a level of smoothness (dare I say maturity?) to the proceedings. But fear not, this is still a Field Music album through and through, so there is *plenty* of weird and wonderful stuff going on.
‘Commontime’, the new album from Sunderland brother duo Field Music, is out this Friday, the 5th of February, on Memphis Industries. The brothers and their band will be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in a fortnight in Bristol (all the details here), and they will begin a UK tour in the last week of February (live dates listed here). For more on Field Music on TGTF, head this way.
One of editor Mary’s favourite tips, Dundee pop quartet Model Aeroplanes have made plans to tour the UK in March, including a hometown show at Fat Sam’s on the 5th of the month. The new list of live dates could indicate that new music is on the horizon for the Scottish band, who signed to Island Records last summer. Below the tour date listing you can find a stream of Model Aeroplanes’ most recent single ‘Deep in the Pool’.
Tickets for the following shows are available now. Our previous coverage of Model Aeroplanes, including live reviews from Live at Leeds 2015 and The Great Escape 2015, is right back this way.
Thursday 3rd March 2016 – Edinburgh Caves
Friday 4th March 2016 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Saturday 5th March 2016 – Dundee Fat Sam’s
Monday 7th March 2016 – London Camden Barfly
Tuesday 8th March 2016 – Brighton Green Door Store
Wednesday 9th March 2016 – Bristol Crofters Rights
Thursday 10th March 2016 – Birmingham Sunflower Lounge
Friday 11th March 2016 – Nottingham Bodega
Saturday 12th March 2016 – Manchester Night and Day
Sunday 13th March 2016 – Leeds Oporto
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