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Bombay Bicycle Club

A band that could spread their talents across a handful of genre umbrellas: angular indie, folk and electronica, the eclectic BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB have duly become hot property among the young and trendy, festival-loving Brits. By word of mouth, NME endorsements and a desire to succeed in a music business aware that avant-pop might’ve had its day yonks ago, the enlightening BBC are a “bresh of freath” air among others all-too-ready to trip on the coat-tails of their idols.
Led out by the tremulous quaver of Jack Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl (grandson of EWAN MacCOLL/nephew of the late KIRSTY MacCOLL) and drummer Suren de Saram, the North London teenagers from Crouch End took time out from studies at University College School in 2005, to become The Canals. A year later, with bassist Ed Nash in tow, the fledgling combo toyed with various names before coming up with something akin to an Indian restaurant chain. Plying their post-new wave sensibilities to the max, the quirky quartet won the prestigious Virgin Mobile “Road To V” battle-of-the-bands (won previously by YOUNG KNIVES), guaranteeing them entry as opening act at the V Festival. In its aftermath and in a quandary on what label to sign for, BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB opted to rope in ARCTIC MONKEYS producer Jim Abiss to guide them on their self-financed debut EP, `The Boy I Used To Be’. Released to an array of plaudits from the NME, this, and its follow-up, `How We Are’, hit indie gold in 2007. On their graduation from school in 2008, they also took the YOUNG KNIVES route by delivering at least one record (`Evening/Morning’) for the Young And Lost Club imprint.
Finally inking a deal at Island Records, Steadman and Co opened their album account with the genre-jumping I HAD THE BLUES BUT I SHOOK THEM LOOSE (2009) {*8}. A Top 50 breaker, the sprawling record showcased no less than four singles, namely the dreamy `Always Like This’, the mournful EDITORS-esque `Dust On The Ground’, the upbeat and punk-y `Magnet’ and the aforementioned angular `Evening/Morning’. The shock to the system was that none of them were hits. Okay, the band had a derivate alt/indie-rock feel to several of their songs: The CURE-ish `Autumn’ for one and, as for the rest it was a matter of where-have-I-heard-it-before; a certain PASSENGER could’ve been listening to the beautiful blues-folky bookend, `The Giantess’.
The latter track was the template to fully float into FLEET FOXES-folk on FLAWS (2010) {*8}. Whether this was ideal for the soon-to-be Ivor Novello-nominated band to undertake, but it certainly awoke a passion in the buying public, who bought enough copies to enter the record into the Top 10. `Ivy & Gold’ (a minor hit) and `Rinse Me Down’ were chosen to represent the set in singles form, while a downbeat reading of `Dust On The Ground’ was thrown into the melting pot. Almost tear-jerking and pulling at the heartstrings at every whisper of Jack into the mic, the singer stirs in sentimentality courtesy of `Leaving Blues’, the bluegrass-y `Many Ways’, the touchy title track and pastoral covers of JOHN MARTYN’s `Fairytale Lullaby’ and JOANNA NEWSOM’s `Swansea’.
Frustrating for folk fans, but in every sense the right move for a harmony-addled band that had aspirations of becoming an indie-prog BEACH BOYS, the poignantly-titled A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIX (2011) {*8} revisited shoegazing halcyon days of old in the glowing `Bad Timing’ and `How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. Featuring minor pop-chart admissions, `Shuffle’ and `Lights Out, Words Gone’ (both verging on nocturnal noodling, but “Chic” and classic nonetheless), the booming BOMBAY BC, yet again, punctured the Top 10. Not entirely discarding folk but interpolating a swirl of subtlety, `Beggars’ and just about every other track, were worthy of a band showing all the right signs of having a bright future. And with a prestigious spot at the close of London’s 2012 Olympic Games, the quartet – adding 5th member Lucy Rose on backing vox – looked set for great things ahead.
This motif was carried on to the band’s first pop-fuelled venture, SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW (2014) {*8}. Scaling the British charts in its first week of release, BBC had travelled a long way since their promising past, indeed Jack had penned most of the songs in his time in Africa, Turkey, Japan and of course, India. Its title inspired directly from a novel by William Maxwell, Steadman took the sonic SIGUR ROS route on the 80s-fuelled cacophony of cosmic complexities; examples `Whenever, Wherever’. Coming across like The BLUE NILE in bed with The BUGGLES (lose that thought!), the dance-floor-doppled `Luna’ and `Overdone’ probably won the day over the pounding `Carry Me’. Almost ripe and ready to join the ranks of PASSENGER and others in the charts, the delightful and exotic `Feel’, `Come To’ and `It’s Alright Now’ were Bombay’s attempts at guaranteeing a massive… er… ‘Club hits.
© MCS Mar2014

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