C/T REVIEW: Bombay Bicycle Club, ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’

Albums / Words

31 Jan 14

So Long, See You Tomorrow’s mission statement must’ve contained words like ‘character’ and ‘building’. Keen and different, Bombay’s Jack Steadman upped sticks and took some influence for this one. He went to India and Tokyo. This is his sonic souvenir.

Just like James Bond, BBC ‘do’ different continents by making distance feel familiar. A grand cinematic occasion, ‘Overdone’ opens with the oriental flare of a tut-tut in Bombay, leading to ‘Alright Now”s beacon calling, dulex-thick anti-Blighty-ness. But right there in the same track, there’s coatings of a safer, less travelled Steadman. ‘Step away, stay numb’, he says at the rise. ‘It’s alright now, I don’t wanna wake’. Better travelled? Perhaps. Less evasive, ponderous and lovelorn? No chance.

Carrying with it a healthy shovel of Steadman’s own glitch-experimentalism, SLSYT commonly wades into complexity. ‘Feel”s funky disposition lifts the rafters and lets go TEED style – it’s dancy and carnivalito – not much at all like the third album’s ‘Shuffle’, if that helps. On the flip side, ‘Whenever, Wherever’ is almost exactly like ‘Shuffle’. Just add a club-ready beat. This constant genre de-stapling even allows for power-pop. ‘Home By Now”s silky keys and messed-with vocals convincingly oppose the tracks’ commonly Bombay percussive instability.

It all brims with Folk spirit – of both drastic re-interpretation and of staid, round-the-campfire romance – and deserves an applause. Same outlook, then – sparkly new packaging.

When Bombay Bicycle Club, who are the same age as me, released their fourth album: that’s when I knew I was old. ‘I feel the grind’, harrumph those kindred spirits during opening salvo ‘Overdone’; its obdurate bassline articulating the conundrum of a still-fresh indie outfit which has achieved beyond its years: where next?

Destination: glam? So Long certainly glows. Frontman Jack Steadman’s been on his gap year, and smuggled home some sun. ‘Feel’ has been pilfered from the Middle Eastern bazaar; ‘Luna’ imagines itself backpacking through the Orient with New Order. Like any musical adventurers worth their Interrail passes, BBC are first and foremost on a rhythmic pilgrimage. ‘Carry Me’, the single, carries a full-on boxing match of synths; the title track a compulsive beat and relentless desire to imaginatively globetrot. ‘Keep going round and round and round,’ it urges in its euphoric moments. There are sedate moments as well, for these songs are scrapbooks which show a maturity and diversity of experience.

Seeing them bring it all back home, it’d be churlish not to feel uplifted – and, yes! There it is: on ‘Whenever, Wherever’, the homely fragrance of festival cider. Consult also ‘It’s Alright Now’ – glistening and chanting ‘step away, step away, step away’ like some Enya homage. On tunes this flighty, stepping away has never been so easy.

It’s rather tempting to pigeonhole Bombay Bicycle Club, isn’t it? Astride three previous releases, it is namely their debut, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, which is fondly remembered, despite pungent whiffs of the indie landfill that plagued the landscape for far too long. Thankfully, with So Long, See You Tomorrow, the North London boys are gleefully destroying every preconception that you thought you had about Bombay Bicycle Club.

An early single, ‘Carry Me’ shimmered as a frothy potshot of intent and arrives early on in the LP’s running time, but it is arguably the LP’s weakest track. ‘It’s Alright Now’ is utterly gorgeous, Steadman’s trembling lilt peeling away layer upon layer of complexity in sumptuous fashion, whereas ‘Overdone’ effortlessly smudges the perimeters between the sweeping soundscapes of Bonobo and crunchy licks of Jamie MacColl’s guitar.

If these are beautifully realised moments of restraint, ‘Feel’ is Bombay Bicycle Club shaking free from the shackles, a giddy ode to Bollywood euphoria, and ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ closes in a tangle of disco barbs and squelchy synths.

Colossal in scale and spanning continents, ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ is a rare major label release that refuses to revert to old habits and finds Bombay Bicycle Club finally realising their potential. They’re all the better for it.

Check out Bombay Bicycle Club's world's-first interactive video for 'Carry Me' and let us know what you think of SLSYT on Twitter