Bombay Bicycle Club have always been a band weaving between cycle lanes trying out different kinds of fixes. Debut ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ is a ferociously well written, boisterous racket of songs that imbed themselves quicker than Bodger’s mischievous mate Badger, burrowing his way through a school’s air duct in search of mashed potato. It was followed by ‘Flaws’, a gnarled piece of knuckled folk-pine. Normally such an abrupt change in direction could be put down to a young band finding out what they do best – and, after all when Jack Steadman and co. started out they were still sixth formers. In the case of Bombay Bicycle Club, though, such meandering musical twists and turns have become the norm. ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ seemed to bring all the band’s gears together into one slickly operating unit, and ‘Shuffle’ marked their most boundary-pushing moment yet. It was a fidgety tangle of jittering piano samples, and stalling beats dragging the pace back again. It had Steadman’s knack for songwriting at its centre, but sounded completely new and refreshing. It felt like the band had hit on something special.
With the quick history lesson over, this is where we’re at now. ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ captures Bombay Bicycle Club’s most experimental moments, and expands them out into an absolutely massive, anthemic album of Bollywood samples (yes, really), focused lyricism, and a heady, propulsive drive with a sensibility nearing on hip-hop. There’s tender pockets too in the beautiful ending to ‘Whenever, Whenever’, laced with echoing choruses before stripping right back to one plunking piano riff.
There’s that big old cliche of ‘finding yourself’, and indeed, Steadman travelled India, Turkey, rural Holland, and Japan during the process to hit on musical inspiration. Leave the gap yah jibes at home though, because as much as it should sound like a lead balloon crashing into a table of awkward small-talk, the tabla playing on ‘Luna’ just works. That iconic, instantly recognisable Bollywood sample from the 1954 movie ‘Nagin’ works, too. ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ is the band’s most cohesive record yet, and for Steadman, it’s not so much a progression, but a realisation of the songs that he always wanted to write since he dabbled on GarageBand aged 13. Later he “[got] into stuff like Boards of Canada and discover[ed] psychoactive drugs – a lethal combination!” This album is the point at which all those things come to fruition, quite wonderfully.
There’s another cliche that gets bandied around a lot, too – that whole slightly ridiculous notion that there are no younger bands stepping up who are ready to occupy the top tier of festival line-ups. Bombay Bicycle Club, with this album, rubbish this very idea. Bold, experimental, and an absolute delight, Bombay Bicycle Club cycle the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
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