Thursday, 8 September 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #17: Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix

Written 7th September 2011:

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

So today’s album review comes from young Indie ‘jump-starts’, Bombay Bicycle Club, with the release of their recent 3rd album ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. Before digging into the album itself and breaking it-down track-by-track let’s just have a brief summary of the band because this is already their 3rd album since 2009, and it’s very much a rarity these days to find a band that will release 3 albums worth of material in the short-space of 3 years!

So I first discovered Bombay Bicycle Club from air-plays of early singles ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Dust on the Ground’ on X-FM before deciding to go out and buy their debut album ‘I had the blues but shook them loose’. I found myself quickly en-captured by lead-singer’s Jack Steadman’s distinct voice and this altogether fun, frantic, pogoing Indie record as a whole, enjoying tracks such as ‘Evening/Morning’, ‘Dust on the Ground’ ‘The Hill’ and, in particular, my two favourite tracks from the album ‘Autumn’ and ‘What If’. I gave the album plenty of listens when I first got hold off it and it was to my delight, that while I was still caught up with the record, the band had already been busy writing, recording and releasing their second album ‘Flaws’.

This follow-up album took somewhat of a different direction to their debut record, with a very much stripped-down, laid-back and mellow acoustic approach to it, which may have surprised some and even in some cases, stunned listeners who enjoyed the first album, with such a change of direction for their 2nd record, however, I still thought it was a great album to listen to with some very strong, heart-felt written tracks on it, for those times when you’re in a reflective mood I guess.

So moving onto the band’s 2011 release and their 3rd album in as many years, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, things get underway with opening track ‘How can you swallow so much sleep?’, which opens with gentle acoustic guitar-picking, that certainly would not have been out of place on the band’s previous album ‘Flaws’, but as bass, from Ed Nash, starts to accompany guitar, this track starts to get into full swing after about a minute or so into it and we see early indications of what I can only describe as ‘groovy’ feel that this record has in spades throughout. ‘Bad Timing’ follows and with its opening electric guitar shows the band means business right away on this track. The track flows along nicely and was one of the more instant tracks on the album for me on first few listens and is still a firm favourite of mine, with the track finishing with the band rocking out on it. This is certainly a track more guitar-heavy than those found previously on ‘Flaws’. Third track ‘Your Eyes’ sets a more serene pace again for the record, after the angular guitars of the last track and features what I would describe as a charming, ‘woodpecker-like’ sound on percussion from drummer Suren de Saram throughout it, while guitarist Jamie MacColl loops a catchy-guitar riff over the track, with the song finishing with dreamy-like vocals from Jack, it’s probably the most poppy track on the album so far.

‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ takes us on another easy-listening stroll, with synths gently pushing the track along and again softly sung lyrics from Jack accompanying it, with the 2nd verse onwards being backed by some jazz-style guitar making this another easily accessible track to the listener. With a click of Suren’s drum sticks ‘Take the right one’ again builds a steady pace for the album, but with this record we’re gently flowing through the gears rather than doing 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. The track features a rather catchy bass-line pulsing through it and certainly would not be found out of place from a Stones Roses gig from the early 90’s which would be a great complement to it indeed. Next we have the first released single from the record ‘Shuffle’, featuring a cleverly structured, hip-hop-like piano. Yes I did just write that! When I first heard this song, I was taken aback by how different it sounded to anything I had heard before, which is refreshing for a start, but the biggest complement to this track is how much of a grower it becomes on subsequent listens. It’s a very distinctive track and certainly a standout choice for opening single from the album.

‘Beggars’ is probably my most favourite track on the album. Another track that opens with the familiar Bombay Bicycle Club style of gentle guitar-picking, it soon builds into an epic song that just effortless coasts along, while simply making the ‘hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand‘ with it’s cleverly structured combination of rhythm and percussion throughout being interspersed by the same guitar-picking that opens the song. With some more ‘wooden-style’ clicking-like percussion buzzing through it, track 8 ‘Leave It’ also carefully balances comfortably flowing verses with another big sing-a-long chorus from Jack and backing vocals from Lucy Rose whose charming backing vocal’s also features throughout the record. This is again another instant and likeable track in my opinion, possibly with the catchiest percussion on the album thus far. ‘Fracture’ has the distant feeling acoustic guitar and vocals from Jack which were again a trademark of 2nd album ‘Flaws’. One of the slower tracks on the record it features quite a duet throughout by Jack and Lucy, with again quite ‘baggy’ guitar through it that again reminds me of the type of sound the Stone Roses were famed for. ‘What you want’ opens with a funky bass-line, that reminded me of a style that one of my all-time favourite bands, Idlewild, would tend to use a lot on some of their earlier records. The track builds and has quite an 80’s vibe to it with its jangly-guitar and bass-line pulsing through it, while another distant-type effect is used on Jack’s vocals accompanied with haunting-like synths in the background, this is another great track.

With piano and a military-march percussion, entwined with that ‘woodpecker’ like sound previously heard on ‘Your Eyes’ penultimate track ‘Favourite Day’ gently flows along again as the album is slowly beginning to effortlessly unwind to the listener, before reaching final track ‘Still’. Now I’m of the opinion that the first two Bombay Bicycle Club albums both featured a big acoustic ballad as the closing track for each album and ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ is no different. A very slowly-drawn haunting piano ballad features this time round and is very much of a sound of Radiohead from their ‘Amnesiac’ album. I would defy anybody not to be quite moved on first hearing this particular track and I’m still currently trying to work out if Jack actually holds the note around the one minute mark by his voice alone or whether a studio affect was used?! This is simply put an astounding track, but one you may care to listen to in your own space and time.

As again as you can most likely tell from this review I’m quite enthusiastic of this latest release from Bombay Bicycle Club but how do I feel it holds up after their first two albums, both of which I also enjoyed? Well as I mentioned in my third paragraph of this review, the first album was a fun, frantic Indie record in comparison to its low-fi, stripped down acoustic follow up. This record for me perfectly merges both styles the band have previously shown on those two records and more importantly get’s the balance of the two styles just about right, certainly no-mean feat in itself.

I read in a previous interview with Jack Steadman that the theme, direction and title of this album was particularly about addictions and for me personally I’ve actually found myself very hooked on this record in the first two weeks since its release which is one of the biggest complements I can pay it for the time-being. While I don’t think this record is an album that would quite reach the echelons of ‘All-Time Favourite Lists’ (which let’s face it are made up to provoke opinions anyway), this is certainly for me a strong contender when it comes to album of the year for 2011. There are certainly more than a few good tracks on this record and it they all flow sublimely well collectively, so I’m going to give this 9 ‘Different Fixes’ out of 10. This for me is the best album the band have released yet (and the first two were great anyway), so take that as high praise indeed! My only regret is that I didn’t manage to get hold of a ticket for their gig at Brixton Academy on the 19th October, which I imagine is going to be one hell of a gig before the band take a very well deserved break in my opinion!

Track 3 ‘Your Eyes’

Track 6 'Shuffle'

Track 7 'Beggars'

Always in need of a fix

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