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February 21, 2012

Album Review - BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - A Different Kind Of Fix

Bombay Bicycle Club are an English Indie rock band hailing from London, England. The band comprises Jack Steadman (vocals, guitar), Jamie MacColl (guitar), Ed Nash (bass) and Suren de Saram (drums). Steadman, MacColl and de Saram met at secondary school and began playing under the guise of ‘The Canals’ at the age of just fifteen. They later changed their name to ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’, after a chain of Indian restaurants in London and the bands line-up altered regularly until the summer of 2006 when, Nash joined.

In May of 2007, NME wrote an article naming, Bombay Bicycle Club "the hottest band to come from North London for quite some time". In June 2008, the band officially finished higher secondary school education, which meant that they could commit fully to music instead of having to juggle being in a band and studies. Bombay Bicycle Club's debut album was recorded between late October and late November 2008 at Konk Studios in London. The album was produced by Jim Abbiss who is responsible for perhaps the most significant British debut of the 21st century - Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. It’s fair to say that this band face quite the challenge to reach the heights that the Sheffield rockers have over the past several years.

‘Bombay Bicycle Club’ won the Best New Band award at the 2010 NME Awards which is an impressive feet given the competition - ‘The XX’, ‘La Roux’, and ‘Mumford & Sons’…the first of which were my personal favourites from 2010. The band released their second studio album, ‘Flaws’ in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2010 and made its entrance on the UK Albums Chart at number 8; beating the debut's peak of number 46. The album included eleven acoustically recorded tracks. On 19 April 2011 it was announced that 'Flaws' has been nominated for the 2011 Ivor Novello award for best album.

In September 2010, the band announced that they had begun working on their third studio album, once again returning to electric guitars following acoustic recordings for "Flaws". On 7 June 2011 Zane Lowe revealed on BBC Radio 1 that their new album would be called ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’. The album was released on 29 August 2011.

‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ gets this album underway with the haunting hums of Steadman accompanied by Tubular Bells type guitar that make for a blindingly clear guitar, before he begs, “Can I wake you up? Can I wake you up? Is it late enough?” and a crashing drum and beat drum rocks in. The composition of this track follows some early, ‘Stone Roses’ tunes. Promising stuff and this is to be released as a single on 5th March.  In ‘Bad Timing’, Steadman again comes to the fore with his quivering, Morrisseyesque vocals. The synths that join in make for a compelling track. The aggressively delivered choruses match in perfectly.  
‘Your Eyes’ is, for lack of a better word, basic. It really follows a simplistic drumbeat and structure, yet somehow gets buried deep in the bows of one’s consciousness. I like the air raid sound worked in towards the end of the track. In ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ it’s very easy to get lost amidst the bands hazy harmonies and glazed riffs which carry a great deal of funk…another in the “catchy” realm. ‘Take The Right One’ emphasizes that, like The Stone Roses earlier records, bass lines are catchier than the songs choruses. This track definitely puts me in mind of that Manchester vibe.

‘Shuffle’ is a happy go lucky tune with a trippy piano loop and gentle crescendos in which lead man Jack Steadman’s delicate voice chimes over bouncing drums. Indeed, Steadman's vocals tumble over handclaps and layered harmonies in a manner that becomes subtly unstoppable instead of mawkish. Towards the end of the tune, my memory harks back to, Moby’s, ‘Play’. Much of the band’s music isn’t far away from that particular Moby album in terms of mood and feel. ‘In ‘Beggars’ that follows, the band have clearly drawn some inspiration from their past endeavours with the acoustic plucking and Jack’s vulnerable vocal warbling recalling previous release, ‘Flaws’.

‘Leave It’ is most certainly home to the bands biggest chorus yet. It’s a confident, gliding groove that slides through everything. Oftentimes, when British guitar bands attempt to get groovy, they can end up sounding flat and about as funky as The Three Tenors, but this doesn’t work out too bad at all. ‘Fracture’ is extremely tranquil and chilled. Enjoyable, but not a great deal to write home about…probably one of the weaker tracks on the album. The dip doesn’t last long and ‘What You Want’ brings is back with an intro reminding me of, ‘New Order’ and an incessant drumbeat that is hard to shift. Guitar riffs are similar to early, ‘Coldplay’ and again the front man’s vocals are chillingly good. 

‘Favourite Day’ follows a marching band beat and is supplemented by a variety of strings, keys, guitar and other percussion. The closer, ‘Still’ manages to recall ‘Amnesiac’ era Radiohead. With a partiality to piano based tracks, this piano howler "Still" that quivers to the end serves notice that the this band have the ability to transition in many different ways. 

Bombay Bicycle Club has established a large and devoted following in the three short years since their first album. They’ve maintained such a following with three albums that are vastly different, from the alternative rock to the entirely acoustic album, right up to this album, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, which is back to electric but more restful. They have arguably created the most poignant anthology of what it means to be young and agitated in the city since fellow Londoner band, Bloc Party’s,  ‘Silent Alarm’. It’s the best album I have heard this year (even though it was released last). Rating 8.5/10

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