Album Reviews

Bombay Bicycle Club – I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose

(Island) UK release date: 6 July 2009


Bombay Bicycle Club have been making a bit of a noise in indie circles since beating fellow North Londoners The Holloways in the final of the Channel 4 Road To V competition in 2006. Now, following two EPs and three singles, the four lads from Crouch End have released their first album, an impressively mature collection of well-honed songs considering they only left school last year.

Naming themselves after the upmarket Indian takeaway/delivery food chain, BBC already showed they had good taste, and I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose features some mouth-watering tracks in an easily digestible form. Produced by Jim Abbiss – who helmed the debut albums by Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys, so no pressure then – the 12 songs may not offer anything especially new musically speaking but their fresh, youthful sound boasts strong but subtle melodies.

Most of the songs touch on adolescent romantic love, especially the unrequited kind (surprise, surprise), with lead singer Jack Steadman’s quivering, trembling vocals – reminiscent of The Maccabees‘ Orlando Weeks – betraying a sensitive response to shifting moods. The charming lyrics tend to be dreamily reflective and full of doubtful hope, but sometimes their obscure introversion is so personal they are hard to fathom.

The title of the opening track Emergency Contraception Blues suggests post-coital panic but, as this is an instrumental, that is left to the imagination amidst the sudden changes in pace and swooping synths. The effortlessly catchy Lamplight, with its bluesy guitar, includes the words “You mirror-gaze while I decide/ The moment you were deified”, which typifies the lovestruck yet self-aware attitude found throughout the album.

Evening/Morning, the first single released last year, is a crisper, more urgent number with a beautiful melodic line, while the chorus “I am ready to owe you anything” promises passionate unilateral commitment. The equally haunting current single Dust On The Ground has Strokes-like angular guitar stabbing and The Killers-style swirling keyboards.

Second single Always Like This is a chirpy tune about falling in love which belies the singer’s anxieties about breaking up: “Will I come off the lightest?” In the harder-edged, darker-tinged Magnet, the boot is on the other foot for a change: “Just my luck to find/Someone who makes me want to leave her behind”, ending with a surprising chill-out dub coda. However, the boy-doesn’t-meet-girl Cancel On Me reverts to default victim-of-love mode as the singer continues to fantasize about a no-show.

The Hill is a cautionary comment about how youthful overweening confidence can be brought crashing down in a moment: “We flew too high, let the sun burn our wings/ We never thought it would be us/ But it all can fast turn to dust.” The sudden rush of energy in What If mirror the singer’s hormonal desires as he battles with romantic uncertainties: “I could go and ask her first/You could try but it won’t work.” The final track The Giantess begins with the same theme from the opener, this time on acoustic guitar, but develops into something totally different: a wistfully reflective song that lingers in the mind long after the album has finished. It whets appetites for album number two.


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More on Bombay Bicycle Club
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Bombay Bicycle Club @ Roundhouse, London
Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws