Most of us didn’t think we’d get another Bombay Bicycle Club album. After taking a break when they finished touring their stellar 2014 album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, the band announced that they were going on “indefinite hiatus”. And although they ruled out breaking up, for fans it felt pretty final, as the band started to pursue other projects.
In the three years that followed, the group kept busy. Frontman Jack Steadman and bassist Ed Nash both released solo albums – Steadman under the moniker Mr Jukes and Nash as Toothless. Guitarist Jamie MacColl went and got an undergraduate degree (and then a Masters at Cambridge), while drummer Suren de Saram spent his time as a session drummer for artists such as Jessie Ware.
But like all good break-ups, Bombay Bicycle Club’s didn’t stick. Tentative conversations about 10-year anniversary shows for their debut ‘I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ turned into recording sessions, and three years later, in early 2019, Bombay Bicycle Club reignited the life in many a waning indie fan’s veins by announcing that they were back, back, back.
Band reformations are always a risky business. Yet those anniversary shows were dazzlingly slick – BBC received nothing short of a heroes’ welcome – and comeback single ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ offered a warm shot of nostalgia. Moving away from the lush sampling of ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, it encompassed the soaring melodies of ‘Flaws’ and the post-punk-flecked instrumentation of debut ‘I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose’.
Follow-up singles followed suit. ‘I Can Hardly Speak’ is a sparkling cut of jittering indie-rock decorated with stonking brass licks. Title track ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ acts as a semi-stripped back continuation of the band’s hulking ‘Carry Me’ and the galloping ‘Is It Real’ is stuffed with growling guitars and a rhythm section that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Future Islands record.
Cracks appeared on their third single from the record, the sleepy ‘Racing Stripes’, a sticky ballad that borrows vocals from singer-songwriter Billie Marten and traipses to the finish line. And frustratingly some of these cracks continue into the rest of ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’.
There are moments where it feels like the band have too many ideas to cram onto one record. Take ‘Let You Go’, which fuses the jangling production of ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ with glitchy electronic beats, squelchy synths and ethereal backing vocals. Each element works on its own, but when they’re all fused together the results are jumbled and overwhelming. Throughout the song the shimmering instrumentation prepares you for one of the band’s trademark euphoric choruses – which never arrives. ‘People People’ feels equally cluttered, clumsily juxtaposing sweet melodies and lovelorn lyrics with overwhelming synths and clattering percussion.
It’s infuriating, as there are real moments of excellence on ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’. The invigorating ‘Get Up’ is a sprightly amalgam of glittering saxophone lines, roaring guitars and sky-high layered vocals and the lilting ‘Good Day’ strips back the production, putting the focus on the painfully honest lyrics that perfectly dissect the experience being in your late-20s in 2020: “I just want to have a good day / And I’m the only thing that’s standing in my way”.
Lyrically it feels rawer and more honest than the band have ever been. Gorgeous ‘I Worry Bout You’ is filled with fear that you have for the loved ones in your life (“I know it never shows/but I worry bout you“), the dancehall-tinged ‘Do You Feel Loved?’ scrutinises society’s reliance on social media affirmation (“soft blue light on the bed / Watch ’til your eyes turn red… Do you feel loved?”), while ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’ is filled with dizzy infatuation: “I can’t stick to the path ’cause I dream about nothing but you”.
And it’s these moments of authenticity that are a reminder of what a brilliant band Bombay Bicycle Club can be. And despite a handful of lacklustre moments on the album, ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ permeates the band’s trademark sound with fresh ideas. Everything else may have gone wrong – but in amongst the chaos it sure is good to have Bombay Bicycle Club back.
Release date: January 17
Record label: Caroline International / Island Records