Review: Bombay Bicycle Club

Eloise Birtwhistle


Bombay Bicycle Club tweak their music with each new album. Their newest and first number one album in the charts ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ marks the clearest reinvention of the band’s sound. It successfully incorporates hints towards a range of other genres and it can be seen as a move away from the guitar riffs that made them famous. Naturally, it has enough of the good old stuff to keep the fans satisfied, too.

There was a lot of buzz about the new album release, created in part by clever marketing, and the band used BBC Radio One as a platform to air both the release itself, and the first single ‘Carry Me’, which went to number eighty one in the UK charts.

‘Carry Me’ is an example of the electronic influences in this album. It features computerised manipulation and a strong dance beat. Lyrical repetition is also used to create an almost House vibe, which is also picked up in the backing vocals. This appears cohesive in the album, clearly seen in the digitalisation of the words ‘I love you’, which not only end the title track, but are the last words of the entire record.

There are more hints towards electronic music to be found in the layering of the songs. This is done both instrumentally, for example, in the opening track ‘Overdose’, or chorally, in slower songs such as ‘Whenever, Wherever.’ This clever effect of building up the sound creates a euphoric feel that flows throughout the entire album. Whether exciting the listener or creating moments of poignancy, the songs are filled with emotion, nodding to the personal production of the album, which was done by front man Jack Steadman.

However, the electronic elements are not the only novel influences heard in ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’. The record was written while Jack Steadman was travelling, so many ethnic details edge into a few of the songs, most clearly so in ‘Feel’, which embraces Indian instruments and percussion. Personally, I find the most successful stretch outside Indie is the Hip-Hop feel of ‘Home By Now’, which comes through in the piano riff and drum beat. This song, like others on the album, also features guest vocalist Lucy Rose.

The best way to listen to Bombay Bicycle Club, however, is by seeing them on tour. The energy of the music is tenfold when performed live, as I witnessed in the O2 Academy in Glasgow. The band’s love of playing their music is clearly visible from the moment they step on to the stage, and becomes infectious to the audience. The set-list was well put together, showcasing every song on the new album alongside old favourites from ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ and ‘I Had the Blues but I Shook them Loose’.

Jack Steadman controlled and involved the crowd effortlessly, encouraging them to clap along, dance and sing the lyrics, which everyone complied to with enthusiasm. The interaction between the band and their fans worked brilliantly in the mid-sized venue, which created a fun atmosphere, yet still managed to maintain intimacy.

The production of the gig was also excellent. The lighting always seamlessly matched the music, both through the tone of colours and through effects such as the sharp moment of darkness for the missed beat in ‘It’s Alright Now’. Strobe-like flashes linked to the dance theme of the new album and created an invigorating atmosphere in the crowd. This built on the walls of sound to form an almost Brechtian assault of the senses in their last encore song ‘Carry Me’ which finished the night excellently.

The use of animation behind the band linked the show with the album art, as well as adding to the emotional experience of the songs. This ranged from the colourful illustrations of cobras and lotus flowers which illustrated the ethnic influence of ‘Feel’, to tranquil black and white sketches of the night sky during ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ which felt mesmerising alongside the music.

Bombay Bicycle club are definitely a band not to be missed live. Even if their albums do not excite you as much, I can guarantee that their performance will!


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