Album Review: Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
An old church in Crouch End is not the first place that springs to mind when you think of a band named Bombay Bicycle Club. Nevertheless, it’s where the North London outfit have chosen to record part of their new acoustic album.
Back in the 1980’s, The Eurhythmic’s Dave Stewart bought the former Hornsey Parish and converted it into The Church Studios, recording his band’s debut Sweet Dreams there.
Fast-forward to 2010 to find Bombay Bicycle Club fresh from being named ‘Best New Band’ at the NME awards.
Their 2009 debut album I Had The Blues But Shook Them Loose was widely acclaimed for its blissful, searing guitars and punchy rhythms. The stripped-back tone of follow up Flaws couldn’t be further away in style and content.
Fans should not be put off by the shift in sound however, this is a band prepared to explore new ideas rather than retrace previous steps.
Opener Rinse Me Down eases in the new mood, its broken harmonies complimenting the melancholy melody. Singer Jack Steadman’s tender refrain of I Told You To Wait, But it’s Too Late hints at the album’s reflective tone.
Many Ways sails along in a similar folky fashion, the banjo accompaniment echoing contemporaries such as Joanna Newsom and Mumford & Sons.
In fact Newsom collaborates on single and title track Flaws, co-writing with Steadman to lend the song a touch of the sparse, exposed feel of her own work.
Lyrics like ‘Out of all the flaws I’ve stumbled on, it’s the hardest one to focus on’ add to the pensive atmosphere; accompanied by Lucy Rose’s soft backing vocals, they give the track a delicate charm.
It’s not quite so easy to warm to all of the newer songs, although the understated working of previous single Dust on the Ground demonstrates the quality of Steadman’s songwriting.
With the layers of the original peeled back, a song of simple beauty is revealed, Dave Naftalin’s laid back Celtic harp replacing the urgency of the original’s thrusting electric guitar.
The production throughout is authentically raw, with every squeaking chord change captured to create a pick up and play sound.
Things stutter a little in the middle, with a number of the tracks one-paced. However like many good records, repeated plays reveal further charms and reward the listener’s patience.
Steadman’s aching lyrical style adds real feeling to the album and his sometime staccato delivery is reminiscent of Athlete’s Joel Pott.
Acoustic albums have become a bit of a rarity, with recent examples hard to name. It’s a sign of the band’s growing confidence that they are prepared to release one so early in their career.
While not quite matching up to their exhilarating debut, Flaws sees Bombay Bicycle Club successfully navigate that difficult second album. Crucially, it marks out a path for them to become so much more than just another indie band.
The band’s critical acclaim has yet to be matched with commercial success – the lower reaches of the top 50 album charts the highlight so far. However, with their latest release Ivy & Gold added to Radio 1’s ‘A’ playlist, that could all be set to change soon.
Flaws is released on Mmm… Records, July 12 2010
Bombay Bicycle Club are appearing at various festivals over the summer, along with embarking on an acoustic tour.
For more information on dates and tickets go to www.bombaybicycleclubmusic.com/live.php