Ears & Fingers: 2/11/16
There are no two ways about it: Matt Tong was my favorite part of Bloc Party. His drumming on their debut, “Silent Alarm,” opened my eyes to how machine-like a musician can be. I waited what felt like an eternity to watch the band play live, and when I finally did, seeing him play drums was thrilling and extremely inspiring. He was every bit as confident as he sounded on recordings and exuded strong mastership over his craft. It was easily one of the greatest percussive performances I had ever seen.
Seeing the band came on the heels of the release of their fourth album, aptly titled “Four,” and midway through the dates, Tong decided to leave the band. This was heartbreaking on a couple of levels. Not only had one of my favorite musicians called it quits, but I legitimately liked Bloc Party, and I felt they just lost their most interesting member.
A couple of months ago, ‘The Love Inside,’ the lead single from the band’s fifth album, “Hymns,” appeared out of nowhere. Everywhere that I saw the song, I saw photos of the unmistakable front man, Kele Okereke, and guitar player Russell Lissack; however, there were two fresh faces with them. One belonged to Justin Harris, multi-instrumentalist from indie darling Menomena, who filled in on bass and keyboards. The other was Louise Bartle, a 21-year-old UK drummer who apparently received the opportunity of a lifetime. The question immediately arose for me though: how would she compare to Tong?
Well, for the most part, it’s an apples and oranges situation. Bloc Party simply isn’t writing the same songs anymore. This is a much more mature and refined band, which simply does not need such a frantic drummer. Bartle plays her role well and does exactly what she needs to keep the rest of the band on rhythm. I know that doesn’t give her very much credit, but it’s exactly what went through my mind every step of the way while listening to this album.
Lyrically, Okereke seems to have abandoned much of the angst found on the band’s formative albums to make way for very overtly evangelical and spiritual themes. The first time I saw the track listing and noticed the song title, ‘Only He Can Heal Me,’ I kind of had a feeling this was the thematic shift an album titles “Hymns” might take, and I was very correct.
All in all, don’t come to this album expecting the same old Bloc Party. The swagger is different. The style is varied. The members are new. To some extent, forget everything you knew about the massive UK band, because it definitely seems like they are looking only to the future. “Hymns” is out now via BMG/Vagrant Records.
Track of the Week: Loretta Lynn-Who’s Gonna Miss Me?
The legendary Loretta Lynn has announced her first album since 2004’s “Van Lear Rose,” which was produced by Jack White. “Full Circle” was recorded intimately with appearances from friends Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello and features re-workings of older songs alongside brand new tracks. The first new song to be released is ‘Who’s Gonna Miss Me,’ a classic styled Lynn song, where she repeatedly questions the void she will leave when she dies. The only answer to her questioning is everyone. Check out ‘Who’s Gonna Miss Me’ on YouTube and pick up “Full Circle,” which is out March 4th via Legacy Re