Album Review: Kele - '2042'
The charismatic Bloc Party frontman embraces different themes and styles creatively but lacks direction on this often-confused record.
When Kele Okereke took to the stage to headline the Saturday at Victorious Festival in August this year, he proclaimed that British fans would not be seeing Bloc Party for a ‘long time.’ After 14 years, many have concluded that Bloc Party might be disbanding in the near future. Following years of internal strife, underwhelming albums and exhausting tours, Okereke certainly implied that a hiatus, if not a disbanding, was imminent.
2042 is an insight into what Bloc Party fans might be getting used to in the future with Okereke on his own, and there are certainly some aspects which fans can appreciate and look forward to. Okereke on this album has arguably never sounded more different to the band that made him so successful in the world of indie rock. He embraces different musical styles and the album documents a wide range of influences, including gospel, hip-hop and even electronic dance at some points. Okereke has freed himself from the distinctive sound of Bloc Party and created something radically separate. Whilst this might disappoint some Bloc Party fans, who yearn for a return of the angsty, hard-hitting sound of their debut album Silent Alarm, Okereke deserves recognition and praise for taking his music into a wildly new direction.
"The album is enjoyable, interesting and well-produced, and is arguably Okereke’s best work since Bloc Party’s album Intimacy."
Religion is a recurring theme in a large amount of 2042, which is arguably surprising given how Okereke faced criticism for Bloc Party’s 2016 album Hymns. Despite garnering some praise for juxtaposing old-school religious traditions and values with his own sexuality, Okereke was critiqued for poor lyricism and underwhelming musicality. This is not the case on 2042, as Okereke delves into more complex and compelling lyricisms. The song St Kaepernick Wept encapsulates this improvement, as Okereke’s unique take on religion and sexuality is described much more effectively through his lyrics.
"2042 is not Silent Alarm and many fans will struggle to accept that, but 2042 does deserve praise for a high standard of production, mixed with subtly witty lyrics and clever, dynamic instrumentation."
The album is enjoyable, interesting and well-produced, and is arguably Okereke’s best work since Bloc Party’s album Intimacy in 2009. However, there is almost a feeling that the album lacks a clear direction and underlying message. Although the album is sophisticated in its construction and thought-provoking, it is difficult to pinpoint an outstanding song or single, and there is no clear factor that brings the album together. The brilliance of Silent Alarm is often accredited to the album having a clear, united perspective. The lyrical themes of teenage heartache and despair mixed together with memorable guitar riffs and highly energetic drumming elevated Silent Alarm to an exceptionally high level of indie brilliance. 2042 is problematic because it does not have tracks as memorable or pioneering as Banquet, Helicopter and She’s Hearing Voices, but that should not take away from the intricate qualities within the album.
Therefore, Okereke could be seen as a victim of his own creation. Creating Silent Alarm required a high level of artistry and creativity, but in creating that high standard of music, it becomes even more difficult to equal or outperform. 2042 is not Silent Alarm and many fans will struggle to accept that, but 2042 does deserve praise for a high standard of production, mixed with subtly witty lyrics and clever, dynamic instrumentation. There are still ways for Kele to improve, but if this is a sign of what is to come in a post-Bloc Party world, then the indie community should be excited.