Review Summary: Nothing new musically, but a charming and promising debut nevertheless.
For better or for worse, first impressions almost always form at least part of our judgement of something, whether that be when meeting new people, seeing new films, or - in this case - hearing new music. This is particularly the case if these initial observations are bad, as the sense of negativity can prove a tough one to rid yourself of, no matter what the quality of that which follows. First impressions have the potential to either make or break a bands career in equal measure, and for Bombay Bicycle Club, you can only hope it isn’t the latter, because their's certainly aren’t favourable.
This indie four-piece from London formed in 2005, with the members only fifteen at the time. At first they spent their time playing local schools and bars, before winning a Channel 4 organised competition which saw them open 2006’s V Festival in Staffordshire – one of the UK’s most popular bashes. The following year they released their debut EP, entitled The Boy I Used To Be
on their own indie label and swiftly followed it up with another, How We Are
eight months later, with both receiving praise from critics including the NME. Incredibly, all of this occurred before the bands members had even left secondary school. When they did, the band were able to tour more regularly and record their debut full-length, as well as land a deal with major label Island records along the way.
So what exactly makes first impressions of this young quartet so bad" Surely a youthful, acclaimed new band can only give off good signs" Well not exactly. For a start there’s the name. It mightn't look too bad at first, but the reality is that the moniker was taken from a London curry house of the same name. Add that to the fact that there are far too many ‘club’ bands around at the moment (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Detroit Social Club, etc) and you don’t really get a recipe for success. Their music, too, at first may seem familiar, and that’s because it is. Everything here has been done before, whether it be by The Strokes, who are perhaps responsible for the saturated state of the scene today, or by more local heroes such as The Libertines. On the surface, at least, there’s little to suggest that BBC aren’t just another landfill indie band that will temporarily gain the support of the UK’s thickle press only to be knocked down and to disappear in due course.
Scratch beneath that surface, however, and you’ll realise that this band could well be more promising than they initially seem, or at least that’s the case if this debut LP is anything to go by. Frontman Jack Steadman’s vocals will understandably be an instant turn-off for some – they can sound awkward and shaky – but those that stick around could well find the quintet to be a band to fall in love with. On first spin, not much stands out, but repeated listens reveal intricate melodies you missed first time around, hooks which maybe didn’t initially draw you in, and above all, a group of well written, heartfelt anthems that showcase the group as potentially talented songwriters.
Not everything here excels, and there are tracks – particularly towards the latter half of the record – that begin nowhere and end nowhere, but those that do really hit the spot. Evening/Morning
combines infectious, jangly and delicate melodies to wonderful effect, with stand alone bass sections ensuring the song maintains momentum until it’s conclusion. Similarly, Magnet
is built around a simple yet effective Strokes-esq riff which drives an otherwise unremarkable song well above the realms of mediocrity, while Dust On The Ground’s
vocal hooks make it an instant standout. Always Like This
’ bouncy rhythm on the other hand makes it perfectly danceable, and it should come as no surprise that this has arguably been their most popular song thus far.
As previously mentioned, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
is far from a perfect record. There are undoubtedly duds among the twelve tracks, the singers voice can become irritating, and certain songs, particularly instrumental opener Emergency Contraception Blues
seem rather out of place in the context of the album. Look past these troubles, however, and this record reveals itself as one of great promise. The band members were barely out of school when it came out, and that the highlights are so inspired certainly hints that the band is capeable of creating something truly special further down the line. First impressions will doubtless have lost the quintet some fans, but those who stick with them could well be rewarded.