Bombay Bicycle Club iTunes Tracks Bombay Bicycle Club Official Website

Bombay Bicycle Club

+ {Toothless} + {Mr Jukes}

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-dappled `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.
The group went on an indefinite hiatus thereafter. Dusting down their instruments, Ed Nash eventually surfaced as TOOTHLESS, on 7-inch singles `Terra’ and `Palm’s Backside’ (the latter later to feature Marika Hackman). A year on, in 2017, with the help of Saram, he cut the album THE PACE OF THE PASSING {*6}. Predominantly an indie-pop chillwave record with electro flourishes, somehow Nash sounded like The KORGIS in a studio with The LOTUS EATERS; opening numbers `Charon’ and `Sisyphus’ perfect examples. The record also cameo’d WILD BEASTS’ Tom Fleming (on `The Midas Touch’) and The STAVES (on `The Sirens’), and maybe the presence of Steadman on production (he also co-authored `Pray For Two’ and `You Thought I Was Your Friend (I Want To Hurt You)’), gave Ed that certain edge.
Meanwhile, MR JUKES himself (aka Jack Steadman), duly issued GOD FIRST (2017) {*7}, a near Top 30 record miles and miles away from his old ‘Club. Roping in a star-studded smorgasbord of stateside soul/funk/hip hop artists, the genre-bending was massive. These including BJ THE CHICAGO KID (for download single, `Angels / Your Love’), LALAH HATHAWAY (for `From Golden Stars Comes Silver Dew’), Alexandria (`Tears’), and DE LA SOUL versus reggae man HORACE ANDY (`Leap Of Faith’). But the star of the show was undoubtedly soon-to-be-gone CHARLES BRADLEY, for their wonderful homage to jazz giant, `Grant Green’. From somewhere closer to home, Elli Ingram (`Somebody New’) and Lianne Le Havas (`When Your Light Goes Out’), were almost equal to their overseas counterparts.
Reuniting as a group after half a decade or so of self-isolation (a sentence one hopes never to repeat), BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB seemed to have stretched their boundaries beyond brash and insular indie. Though not No.1 having lost a little interim impetus, Jack Steadman and Co still oozed a coming-of-age coolness and collective class for early 2020’s EVERYTHING ELSE HAS GONE WRONG {*8}. And with angular edges presented on several shots, there was also a certain fragility and drama on `Do You Feel Loved?’, `Let You Go’ (almost folk-y), anthems `Is It Real’, `Good Day’ and the equally exuberant `Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2014-Feb2020

Share this Project

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.