Considering the usual work rate of Bombay Bicycle Club – with three albums in three years since the release of their excellent debut in 2009 – the two-year wait for their latest offering, So Long, See You Tomorrow, appears almost extensive in comparison. Yet what has always been more remarkable than their prolific album turnover is the foursome’s ability to consistently progress their sound with each new release.
It is something that few expected of them when they burst onto the scene with the guitar-heavy indie rock of I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, with many dismissing them as another distant relation of The Strokes. However, second album Flaws completely subverted expectations, delivering 12 beautifully crafted, delicate acoustic tracks, while third album A Different Kind Of Fix saw them break completely new ground again.
So Long, See You Tomorrow sees the band continue to experiment with their sound, with the end result undoubtedly their most adventurous and sonically immersive record yet. Penned by frontman Jack Steadman – who wrote the record while travelling through India, Turkey, Europe and Tokyo – it would seem that with album number four, Bombay Bicycle Club have finally discovered an identity of their own.
The signs were certainly promising when the band aired first single Carry Me, which suggested that the time off had given their new material fresh impetus. The song is four-and-a-half minutes of organised chaos, with its skittering guitar riff providing the basis for throbbing synths and a crashing, staggered beat, as Steadman’s distorted vocal warbles: “If anybody wants to know/ our love is getting low/ lighting the cracks in the road.”
Carry Me is by no means a one off, either, with So Long… demonstrating track after track just how far the band have come in the last five years. Overdone opens proceedings with the first of many beautifully engrossing melodies, as its nondescript guitar riff combines with an addictive, looped violin sample, while second track It’s Alright Now is another slow-burner until it bursts into life on its soaring, falsetto chorus.
Although the record is not easily defined, there is a clear movement towards electronic beats – a direction previously hinted at by the cut-up piano sample from A Different Kind Of Fix’s lead single Shuffle. Take Home By Now, which is built around shimmering keys, a subtle R&B hook and a clap beat. Like many of the tracks, it is constantly busy, with the various components of the song fighting against each other for position.
This is can also be applied to the album’s centrepiece, the towering single Luna, which arguably features the most anthemic chorus of any Bombay Bicycle Club song. “There’s a lot of words to call out/ just waiting for the perfect hideout,” sings Steadman, before newcomer Rae Morris adds delightful accompanying vocals over the infectious Middle Eastern melody and offbeat rhythm.
However, the song that most obviously captures the influence of Steadman’s travels is Feel, where a looping Bollywood groove creates a joyous, carnival atmosphere. It is a fascinating example of the band’s boundless ambition, while also showing just how adept Steadman is when taking the reins on production duties. This point is hammered home by the six-minute title track, which rounds things off with a final energetic flurry out of nowhere.
It all adds up to a record that marks a drastic departure for Bombay Bicycle Club, and a welcome one at that. That said, don’t expect to get what is going on straight away, as So Long, See You Tomorrow is most certainly a grower. There are times when it feels sporadic and fragmented – with so many different elements crammed in to each track – but ultimately, it is the sound of a band pushing themselves further than they’ve ever gone before.