Bombay Bicycle Club have just scored their first UK #1. Is it any good?
No one can accuse Bombay Bicycle Club of resting on their laurels. Quite apart from the fact that their first three albums were released within almost two years of each other, each exhibited a marked progression in their sound. Their debut, 2009’s I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, was a collection of quintessential indie tracks driven by a youthful sense of adventure; 2010’s Flaws was entirely acoustic, showing that there was real depth and subtlety to their song writing; and 2011’s A Different Kind of Fix branched out with more expansive songs and electronic touches. So Long, See You Tomorrow has been two and a half years in the making, longer than the previous two albums combined. Have Bombay Bicycle Club spent that time venturing further into new sonic territory?
Opener ‘Overdone’ answers in the affirmative, and it is fairly representative of the album as a whole. It begins with a bouncy string melody, before being augmented by an electronic beat and Jack Steadman’s idiosyncratic vocals. BBC have taken everything further with this album; the songs are more expansive, electronic, and anthemic than anything they have produced before. It seems to be working for them, too. This is their first album to hit number one in the charts.
There are moments which are reminiscent of old BBC; ‘Eyes Off You’ begins as a piano-driven ballad which would not be too out of place on Flaws, and ‘Luna’ boasts the skittering drums and staccato basslines of their debut. But even these tracks are overwhelmed by the propensity to go big; they both end up sounding most at home in a stadium, rather than the dingy venues of the band’s past.
The electronic parts of the album are some of the strongest. ‘Home By Now’ is based on a laid-back hip-hop beat that lets the song glide over the top perfectly. ‘Carry Me’, meanwhile, is almost a perfect example of what can be achieved when the manic energy of indie is allied to the pulse of dance music; it is reminiscent of Tom Vek’s magnificent second album, Leisure Seizure.
However, it is when the electronic elements used are too obviously to engineer a ‘sing along, hands in the air’ feeling that the problems begin, and creeping similarities emerge with late-era Keane and suchlike. Thankfully those times are rare, but there are enough of them to take the shine off what could have been an extremely good album. This is slightly disappointing, but Bombay Bicycle Club never stay still. With their recent history, and current success, their future will be very much worth paying attention to.
Photo credits: Island Records