What are your reasons to be cheerful in January? In a month where inspiration can be in short supply, it’s not bad thing to opt for wall-to-wall music to get through the bare bones of the year’s first instalment. The time is ripe, then, for the return of Bombay Bicycle Club, and all the positivity their music has entailed until now.
Yet on the face of the title of their fourth album, trouble could be afoot. After a rare case of a band reuniting because of musical differences – their solo projects sated for now – BBC are ready to get all their ducks in a row and pick up somewhere near where they left off. The ‘everything else’ that has gone wrong refers to just that – the world as we find it – leaving them to get on with their own brand of carefree pop.
The band’s second coming arrives with some added grit, mostly to the guitar and bass sounds, with more distortion in evidence than previously, even if it stops well short of out and out rock. Present once again are their appealing syncopated rhythms and riffs, above which the slight husk of Jack Steadman’s lead vocal offers shots of warmth and positivity.
Get Up, the album’s first salvo, could actually be written for January – but is actually something of an upbeat to the more substantial content in the songs that follow. These are headed by the cheery riff making of Is It Real, its multi-layered vocals, suggesting a brush with the back catalogue of Godley & Creme.
New beginnings are actively sought out on Good Day, where Steadman believes it’s time to take action, though his plan feels half-finished. “I would quit my job, if I had a job, then I would have everything I want,” he sings, but he doesn’t explain how he would get there.
This brings to mind his curious admission in the press release that “for my whole life, I haven’t been very good at expressing myself with words”. Yet perhaps this modesty is the very reason the group are on a level with their audience, who make the musical connection while identifying with the band’s subtle vulnerability. Steadman probably had the album’s title track in mind, which repeats “everything else has gone wrong” as a mantra until the singer proclaims “yes I’ve found my peace again, and yes I’ve found my second wind”, driving home the point relentlessly.
This earnest approach can make Bombay Bicycle Club something of an easy target, and you only have to think of the divisive reviews of Steadman’s Mr Jukes project to see how they are often conveniently herded towards the middle of the indie pop road by listeners. That flies in the face of their genuine rhythmic invention, typified here by the Afrobeat riffs and bass on Do you Feel Loved? as well as the circling drums and synthesizer lines looped over Let You Go.
Six years on from when they said So Long, See You Tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club return to soothe troubled minds and give some necessary uplift to the January musical outlook. It was a long goodbye but they have been missed more than might have been expected. As closing number Racing Stripes declares, “this light will keep me going” – and the inspiration in play on much of this comeback suggests everything else will soon turn right.