Album Review: Bombay Bicycle Club - 'A Different Kind Of Fix'
They haven't just reinvented themselves, they've uncovered their true essence
A hell of a lot’s been made of [a]Bombay Bicycle Club[/a]’s supposedly ‘baggy’ new direction. Since the emergence of extremely shuffly lead single [b]‘Shuffle’[/b] the Londoners have found themselves set up as reckless genre-slicing reinventors. “Look!” we cry. “It’s Jack Steadman undergoing another morphing – this time into baggy-boy superstar, following his switch from feral indie rocker to [a]Nick Drake[/a]-channelling acoustic troubadour with a voice as quivery as a jelly awaiting a medical test result! What next? Strapping on some cone bra cups, scooping up some transsexuals for a video shoot and going power-pop?”
While the idea that the bespectacled Jack could end up going nipple-to-nipple with [b]Gaga[/b] for his next reinvention is pretty amazing, we have to put the brakes on and report that [b]‘A Different Kind Of Fix’[/b] isn’t some meaningless genre-twist. Rather, it’s a bang-on alignment of everything Bombay do best, harnessed while they were in a working groove as powerful as the stylistic elements they’ve integrated into their sound. Like [b]‘The Soft Bulletin’[/b] by [a]The Flaming Lips[/a] or [a]The Horrors[/a]’ [b]‘Primary Colours’[/b], it’s one of those records where a band, after a few meanderings, smack exactly what they’re about on the nose, and everything else falls into place.
Jack’s been quick to say that he wasn’t listening to any guitar music in the run-up to making [b]‘A Different Kind Of Fix’[/b]. But if he was more into [b]‘Shame On A Nigga’[/b] than [b]‘It’s A Shame About Ray’[/b] while working with producers Jim Abbiss and Ben Allen, that doesn’t mean that guitars have been banished. Instead, everything on the album stems from [a]Bombay Bicycle Club[/a] being, at heart, a big-balled rock band.
Not that it’s really about bludgeoning, though – opener [b]‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’[/b] deftly heralds the record like a fresh morning, all sun-through-the-shrubs guitar plinks and rousing Reni drums, even more shuffly than [b]‘Shuffle’[/b], if that’s possible. It’s also a mesmerisingly happy song. In fact, the whole record seems delivered through a face-wide smile, from the marching band patter of [b]‘Favourite Day’[/b] to [b]‘Your Eyes’[/b], a brilliantly jaunty cousin of [a]Mystery Jets[/a]’ [b]‘Young Love’[/b]. Closer [b]‘Still’[/b] manages to recall [b]‘Amnesiac’[/b]-era [a]Radiohead[/a] while managing not to convey the impression that their pets have all recently been rounded up and shot. It’s a summer album for whiffing grass cuttings, flying kites, falling down a long-drop toilet at Glasto and not caring… all those summertime clichés.
The band have also been careful to draw inspiration from their past while still facing forward – the acoustic plucking and Jack’s vulnerable vocal warbling on [b]‘Beggars’[/b] recall last year’s [b]‘Flaws’[/b], and album centerpiece [b]‘Leave It’[/b] boasts their biggest chorus yet. What’s really new is the confident, gliding groove that slides through everything. It’s worth remembering that when British guitar bands attempt to get groovy, they usually sound as funk-less as [a]The Courteeners[/a]’ [b]‘You Overdid It Doll’[/b]. In fact, as the likes of [b]‘Take The Right One’[/b] demonstrate, this album is one of those rare records (like [a]The Stone Roses[/a]’ debut) on which the basslines are catchier than the actual choruses.
Enough talk about reinventions, this is more of an evolution. On [b]‘A Different Kind Of Fix’[/b], [a]Bombay Bicycle Club[/a] have, quite simply, found themselves.