“You’ve changed” would be my words to Kele Okereke since the break-up of his previous band Bloc Party. The guitar-based roots of the seminal band were left at the gym doors as Kele decided it was time to try something different, which also happened to be the same something that everyone else had already tried. Kele’s debut solo album The Boxer contained a few gems, but it often sounded like he was trying too hard to win over an entirely new crowd, whilst completely disowning the indie fans who still worship his previous work. For these reasons my expectations for this EP were quite low. I was expecting undeniably decent songs, but not the kind of decent seen on Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm in songs such as ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Positive Tension’. I can happily say that there are many moments in The Hunter wherein Kele surpasses these expectations.
Opener ‘What Did I Do’ is an exercise in dance music cliché. While it is a good song, you can almost directly play ‘I Need Air’ by Magnetic Man into it. Despite this, the vocals (provided by Lucy Taylor and backed by Kele) are emotive and powerful, raising the song above the throwaway dance song it could have so easily been. It seems that in being a crossover artist Kele is trying slightly too hard to cater to the dance music crowd, providing them with what he thinks they want. Seeing as Kele’s former band Bloc Party practically revolutionized the indie genre with their debut album, it seems Kele would be much better suited to producing something that he wants rather than something the genre demands.
‘Release Me’ doesn’t punch with as much power as it predecessor, rather sounding like some of the more throwaway tracks from Kele’s debut album. It’s okay, but it’s not particularly memorable. The same could perhaps be said for ‘Goodbye Horses’, but the pumping synths that shape the song provide it with immediacy and purpose. The song sounds like a decent off-cut from Intimacy-era Bloc Party, as Kele’s laments of “Goodbye horses are flying over you” (originally sung by Q Lazzarus) are actually pretty catchy.
‘Devotion’ is the highlight of the EP. It possesses the breathy and catchy vocals and hook filled synths that made Bloc Party favourite ‘Flux’ such a good song. At this point it is clear that Kele has completely left guitar-based music behind; he’s seriously trying to produce dance music, and any doubts as to the authenticity of this based on the first couple of songs should be quelled by this fantastic track.
‘Cable’s Goodbye’ is largely forgettable with its superfluous self-importance and massive build up to nothing in particular. The song’s position between two much better tracks perhaps emphasises its filler-like nature. To be honest, it’s pretty boring. As I mentioned, the next track ‘You Belong to Someone Else’ is much more interesting, with its lively vocals and varied musical accompaniments almost waking the listener up from the banality of the previous track. Despite its catchiness, around the two-minute mark the song suffers from the old dance music cliché problem that I have mentioned. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: it provides an interesting change in dynamic and renders the song perfect for clubs, but it sounds like he’s trying too hard to please.
EP closer ‘Love as a Weapon’ represents the emotional climax of the album. The song’s gun noises are a little obvious, but the song itself is brilliant. It develops into a sparse piano-driven climax, which is the most powerful and original presence on the album
The things I have said about the album have not been overtly positive or negative. While the album suffers from dance music cliché (undoubtedly the result of a crossover act who understands indie more than he does dance), there are many moments of genius on the EP. Overall these moments of genius outweigh the minor negatives, and for that reason I feel that Kele is definitely developing into an important and creative force in the British music industry.
Good: ‘Devotion’ and ‘Love as a Weapon’ punctuate the album with emotional and catchy songs that couldn’t be produced by anyone else; Kele is at his best when he is being original.
Bad: Often sounds like dance music that could be done better by many others who know the genre a lot better than Kele.