Bombay Bicycle Club ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ – Review

23 Feb

Bombay Bicycle Club have always been safely adventurous – like children allowed to play outside, with their parents watching through the kitchen window. They’ve flirted with weirdness whilst remaining, essentially, four middle class white boys with guitars playing conservative indie-rock for a major label. They’re kinda popular, but then they release their albums at quiet times of the year. They play high-ish up the festival bill, but they’re far from headline material. You get the impression they like strange, experimental music but they love pop. They push out in both directions here, which is great. ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ is simultaneously their safest and most ambitious album to date. On one hand it’s melodic and anthemic, on the other it’s glitchy and restless. It wants to be odd and cool but it also longs to be loved by everyone. It’s endearingly try-hard.

First single Carry Me’ wants to be played alongside Calvin Harris and at the same time be cooler than Calvin Harris. Frankly, it’s probably the least danceable attempt at dance music I’ve ever heard. It’s jittery and hardlined and lacks even an attempt at groove. That said, it has been played alongside Calvin Harris, and I know a fair few teenagers who fell in love with it, so I guess it can be considered a kind of success. Second single ‘Luna’ feels much more comfortable though. It extenuates the band’s naturally melodic tendencies, asking “just how sugary can we make this verse, and then how much more sugary can we make the chorus?” Just in case you don’t fall in love with the song’s natural ingredients, the band have sprinkled all kinds of sweet excess over the production. At any one moment there is more going on than most bands can cram into an entire album. Over the top? Desperate, even? Possibly, but that just makes them even more likeable.

‘Feel’ is as good a “western-pop” take on “world music” as anything I’ve heard since ‘Vampire Weekend’. The Bollywood sample at the start of the song (for want of a more specific description) quickly converts into a twisted synthetic take on the same instrumentation, which makes it sound like something from the Aladdin Mega Drive game soundtrack. The now standered backing vocals by Lucy Rosse just complete the pretty picture. ‘Feel’ and ‘Luna’ are not the only songs stuffed with ideas – the whole album is, to a flaw. Jack’s voice is naturally quiet and subtle, and it gets lost in the chaos somewhat. That’s a shame because it’s easily their best instrument. Maybe that’s why I prefer the quiet and reflective numbers on here – the intro to ‘Whenever, Wherever’ (sadly not a Shakira cover), ‘Eyes off You’ and the title track. Their acoustic 2010 album ‘Flaws’ was great for a reason, and it remains their best effort.

Despite all the good work the band have done here, BBC are still searching for their killer song; still looking for their Mr Brightside, Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor or Ruby. Even after listening to the album for a couple of weeks I probably coudn’t hum you very much. It’s all very good without ever being great. Four albums in and BBC still haven’t found a song that would make newcomers, and fellow Pop-rock careerists, The 1975 or Haim loose a wink of sleep. To call the album admirable, consistent and likeable would be like telling a job candidate that they are a really nice guy, but probably not right for this job. And dammit they tried so hard! It’s a cruel business this, and you get the impression Bombay Bicycle Club aren’t going to give up until they’ve made their masterpiece.

7.5/10

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