Bombay Bicycle Club are a band I’ve always wanted to see live but have never quite got round to. I watched their 2011 Reading and 2010 Glastonbury performances on the BBC, both of which looked really fun and impressive. Approaching my age, middle-class and from a nearby part of London, they also remind me of my own youth. They are still young (three years since completing their A-Levels and already three albums into their career is an astonishing achieving that almost brings to mind some kind of Chinese musical prodigy band) and yet they seem easygoing, unaffected by the fame so exceptional for people their age, just enjoying their touring and recording. If there’s one thing that’s obvious on an inspection of a Bombay Bicycle Club live performance, it’s that the band love doing it: their interaction with the crowd (usually a loyal following), cheery smiles and genuine exuberance bring out obvious good humour and level-headedness in their attitude to a typically (or typically portrayed) heady, glamorous and occasionally debauched profession: rock band.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s clean-cut image has not opened them up to jibes or cynicism, however, probably because their musical output continues to bear them out. Three albums in two years has sort of made a mockery of artists who labour over music, posturing over tone or production or management: it really does seem as though Bombay do what they want and realise they are just part of a stupid heady circus. Every album though (including A Different Kind of Fix it seems) has been received well, and has taken their career to a new, concrete level. To me Bombay will be around for a long time: slow-burner intelligent types, quietly hanging around until every indie kid in sight is gobbled up, spat out and sent on their way with a few CDs, loyal patriotism to the Bombay uncharacteristic of this flippant age and a cheery spring in their step. I thought this from the moment I heard I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. Doing what you want is obvious, but for this band it seems to coincide with some kind of chink in the indie music zeitgeist which only Bombay Bicycle Club seem able to fill.
A Different Kind of Fix seems in many ways a coming of age LP- greater self-awareness, reflection and hardiness than the last. Flaws was acoustic, quiet and simple but it lacked depth at times. ‘Ivy & Gold’ and ‘Rinse Me Down’ were casual little ditties; though wonderfully formed and touching, they were not particularly penetrating. The opening riff of ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’, however- the first few minutes of the album- suggests a slightly more serious and sobering affair on A Different Kind of Fix. Trudging into the darker ‘Bad Timing’, a more staid demure is confirmed. Echo effects swirl around Suren’s drums as Jack Steadman tries to carry his voice over the atmospheric feedback. I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose would never have tolerated this grungy, heavy pondering, yet posing themselves a challenge, Bomaby Bicycle Club shed their image as loitering children. Reverberating guitars and vocals persist on ‘Your Eyes’ in which it sounds like Jack Steadman greets us from inside a cave. The production adds to the sense that Bombay Bicycle Club are less whimsical, less delicate and ready to carry themselves into a new, more mature phase. Animal Collective producer Ben Allen can be credited with producing this distinctly different feel that plays on the slightly more nuanced character of their music.
Other highlights include ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ (see above Reading link), fun single ‘Shuffle’ and the haunting, melancholic ‘Still’. A Different Kind of Fix is a prime example of Bombay Bicycle Club blending the kind of catchy pop that was present on their debut with more unusual song structures, occasional moroseness (especially in the second half of the album) and a reverberating style of orchestration. In essence, the band still sound like they’re enjoying themselves, which remains the most obvious and important factor in delivering the quality that we have come to expect from Bombay Bicycle Club LPs. On ‘Beggars’ they indulge in a slight folksy stint; whooping harmonies and rich guitars suggest Steadman could even be developing the band as a new Fleet Foxes!
On the strength of this album, I don’t doubt that A Different Kind of Fix will be just as big a hit as its two predecessors and that Steadman & Co will quietly plod forward towards NME notoriety, positive reviews and even bigger shows with just as many loyal fans. One day when they split up we will turn back and look at how four teenagers from Crouch End managed to in their own unassuming way outlive the allure of cool bands like Foals and Klaxons, and puncture trends as completely irrelevant. There has been no sense of entitlement on which to hang their coats, just focus, dedication and songcraft. In the spirit of that sensibly steady-Eddy description, if there is one band your Mum might like you to like, Bombay Bicycle Club still could be it. However if this is the music they write, I don’t really care.