Los Angeles punk crew hit a sweet spot between hedonism and poignancy on a multi-layered second album
Album review: Bombay Bicycle Club - 'Flaws' (Mmm... Records/Island)
The youngsters swap electric guitars for bluegrass and Joanna Newsom on their second album
Inspired by Harry Smith’s ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’, a seminal compilation of country, folk and blues recordings from the 1920s and 30s, and written entirely by Jack (aside from cover of John Martyn’s ‘Fairytale Lullaby’ and a re-working of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Swansea’) ‘Flaws’ is a master of simplicity. The sleevenotes read pretty much like the Jack Steadman Show: he even recorded most of it in his bedroom, as well as producing the record himself with a little help from guitarist Jamie’s dad, folk singer Neill MacColl.
Tracks such as ‘Leaving Blues’ feature little more than a Nick Drake-esque, finger-picked guitar to accompany Jack’s shivery vocals which, replete with Devendra-like quivers, make him sound at once vulnerable and world-weary, as his effortlessly graceful lines capture feelings of regret, love and rejection – “Breathing the smoke of the train/Keep the thought of you aflame/I’m sure you know that I’m leaving.” First single ‘Ivy & Gold’ is an ode to the feelings of discombobulation that arise from falling asleep drunk at a party, then waking up to find everyone has left – and thus it is the liveliest song on the album, a jaunty slice of bluegrass that takes a turn for the wistful. The gently lilting melody on title track ‘Flaws’ is lent extra weight by London songstress Lucy Rose’s delightfully smoky accompaniment. With lyrics like, “The life of a selfless man/Cos out of all the flaws I’ve stumbled on/It’s the hardest one to focus on”, it makes for a delicate and stirring ballad.
Of the two covers, John Martyn’s ‘Fairy Tale Lullaby’, a psychedelic tale about riding rainbows and a magic purple sea, is as effortless and starry-eyed as the original. While on the closing track – their adaptation of ‘Swansea’ – it is clear how much influence Joanna Newsom has had on Steadman’s own vocals. His enchanting and ethereal wavering is almost the spit of hers, only several shades deeper. Not just an acoustic diversion, ‘Flaws’ will no doubt see the crafty BBC boys shrug off their young-indie-upstarts label. They’ve proved themselves to be a band who defy convention with an album stuffed full of subtle invention and an emotional intensity that you really wouldn’t expect from a band still too young to grow a beard between them.
What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.
Click here to get your copy of Bombay Bicycle Club's 'Flaws' from the Rough Trade shop.
10 Tracks You Need To Hear This Week (2/9/2015)
Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
The Cavan teenagers attack album two with abandon, largely at the expense of quality