Kele: 2042 review – Okereke's most political work yet

(KOLA Records/!K7)
The Bloc Party frontman’s fourth solo album takes in Grenfell and Windrush to make the political personal

Kele Okereke has lived many musical lives. In his early 20s he was the frontman of indie rock band Bloc Party; as he neared 30, he transitioned into a lo-fi dance producer with solo records The Boxer and Trick. At 35, he became a father and opened his heart on the folk LP Fatherland. This year, he even wrote a musical, Leave to Remain, which advocated for equal marriage against a backdrop of dance music and west African high life. On 2042, his fourth solo record, he goes some way to combining all his personas in one place for the first time, fusing genres as he spans themes that are both intimate and universal.

So named to reference the year that census data predicts ethnic minorities will become the majority in the US, 2042 is perhaps Okereke’s most directly political work to date. There are references to Colin Kaepernick and Grenfell – the latter on the surging, growling standout track Let England Burn. But with 16 tracks of disparate genres and themes, the album feels disjointed at times. Catching Feelings, with its breathy falsetto and romantic guitar riff, is a disarmingly lovely song about being commitment-phobic – and after it fades out, the listener is plunged straight into David Lammy’s famous speech on the Windrush scandal.

It is undoubtedly a deliberate, albeit jarring, choice to dovetail the political with the personal this way, mirroring the constant onslaught of news and updates that we face in the digital age. Okereke also doesn’t allow the listener to forget that for many, the political is personal. Rather than separate the two, he searches for moments of tenderness in the chaos. Hence, Natural Hair, a neo-soul song about two black boys in love; the glam rock-influenced meditation on death that is Between Me and My Maker; and the gentle ballad Ceiling Games, which recreates a love scene from a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel. These are the snatched glimpses of humanity that pierce through a noisy record with love and light.


Aimee Cliff

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Richard Dawson: 2020 review
Dawson adds pop-facing elements to folk on this brilliant album, full of stories of a benighted Britain

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

11, Oct, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Arguments, apologies and scouring YouTube for drummers: how Kele got Bloc Party restarted
The frontman admits ‘it sometimes felt frosty’ in his band. But now, with two new members, he’s ready to clear up why they split and how they made their sensuous comeback

Tim Jonze

26, Nov, 2015 @6:40 PM

Article image
New music: Kele – Tenderoni

Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke goes solo, electro and falsetto with this musical reinvention

29, Apr, 2010 @9:30 AM

Article image
Bloc Party's Kele Okereke writing a book
Singer moving to New York to complete first book, thought to be a collection of erotic short stories

Sean Michaels

26, Jan, 2011 @10:39 AM

Bloc Party: Four – review
Bloc Party make a show of returning to their live, rocking roots, but can't always keep the pace going, writes Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

16, Aug, 2012 @8:00 PM

Article image
Beirut: Gallipolli review – Pinterest-friendly world indie
Zach Condon’s voice is as lovely as ever, on tracks soothingly yet dismayingly similar to past albums

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

01, Feb, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Jade Bird: Jade Bird review – edgy, unsparing Americana
Bird’s debut shows an artist polished and forceful, but sometimes her sparkle gets sanded down

Michael Hann

19, Apr, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Drahla: Useless Coordinates review – swaggering, controlled-chaos debut
(Captured Tracks)
Leeds trio’s potent first album takes rugged-but-cerebral post-punk on a propulsive, saxophone-tinted journey

Dean Van Nguyen

03, May, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Blossoms: Foolish Loving Spaces review – marvellously uncool exuberance
The Stockport band’s third album of expansive gems is a celebration of love so puppy-eyed it evokes the Osmonds

Laura Snapes

31, Jan, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Laura Veirs: Found Light review – folk-rocker’s sexual reawakening
The Portland singer-songwriter’s first album written after splitting from her husband and longtime producer is a candid confessional filled with headily intimate images

Rachel Aroesti

08, Jul, 2022 @8:00 AM