It would be fair to say that Bombay Bicycle Club have never truly given us a worthy follow up to their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. That album was full to the brim with simple, yet charming indie rock that introduced an exciting young UK act and made a promise it couldn't keep. Just 19 at the time of release, it seemed Jack Steadman was destined to push on with and deliver on his undoubted potential as lead singer and songwriter for the group, but the sophomore slump hit hard with Flaws in 2010, an almost all acoustic effort and a miscalculated, confusing step in the wrong direction. The near solo Flaws, with its collection of (truth be told) B-side standard tracks, was then counter acted 3 years ago with A Different Kind Of Fix. This time the band was back in full flow, but again failed to inspire major plaudits with an album that sounded too concerned with success in the safe zone of generic pop/rock rather than searching for any kind of deeper meaning and acclaim.
So here we are at record number 4, and truth be told, it's either time to go hard or go home. One more misstep and Bombay Bicycle Club could easily find themselves out in the cold, but the signs, at least, were promising in production stage. Word of Steadman's travels around the globe and soul searching in India, Japan and Turkey combined with his self professed new love of sampling and tribal chants/rhythms gave reason to expect a new design or reinvention of the band, and that is exactly what we get on So Long, See You Tomorrow, an album which seeks to drastically eradicate the past and begin a new phase for the young four piece.
Overdone kicks off the album with a rising, cinematic opener that already sounds more interesting than any of the ideas summoned over the past 4 years from the band, and establishes a brand new energy to an almost unrecognizable act. The unusual, playful rhythms of It's Alright Now and Carry Me continue to introduce this atmospheric, textured approach that brings to mind several possible influences, most prominently and unexpectedly perhaps Sigur Ros, with certain aspects of this spiritual, slightly ethereal approach exposing tinges of the iconic Icelandic act.
Album standout Home By Now is where things start to get really interesting though- the hip-hop inspired beats of the track are complimented beautifully by light guitar and backing vocals, resulting in a blissed out production of such quality that is totally unexpected of BBC. With Steadman's already uniquely tinted vocal washing over these experimental vibes, the band have really found a nice that deserves further exploration in due time.
The second half of the album is composed of a more delicate set of songs as piano is introduced and utilized to great effect on the uplifting Whenever, Wherever (not a Shakira cover unfortunately) and especially Eyes Off You, another wonderful piece that stands alongside Home By Now as the best of the album. This slow burning, Kate Bush like 4 minutes feels like the total realization of a matured BBC,and Steadman sounds well beyond his 24 years for this perfect, sentimental moment of beauty. Elsewhere Luna recalls the feel good groove of Always Like This, one of the band's original and best hits, and makes for the cut choice of lead single from these ten experimental tracks.
For all the talk of Indian samples and tribal chanting, they only come to prominence in the latter section of the record with Feel, but it's nonetheless an interesting technique that fits in effortlessly among the tracklisting, and is another impressive example of vastly improved production. We come to the most conventional, guitar based track of the album on Come To but even so it retains the otherworldly feel that dominates the record, before the 6 minute title track brings an end to proceedings with its comedown, calming aroma built around a Tetris like beat designed to patiently wash over the listener, marking a drastic difference from the more immediate chart rock of all the band's previous work, much like the record itself in total.
And so, Bombay Bicycle Club complete an ambitious, exciting and engaging 54 minutes. So Long, See You Tomorrow is quite clearly not only the band's best work in years, but their best to date. It's a significant album that could come to define a career if BBC are capable of pushing on and delivering more work in this vain; songs that drip in luxurious textures and rich atmosphere but retain the catchy accessibility of their original source. An unprecedented and rewarding effort, So Long reestablishes Bombay Bicycle Club as a band to watch and showcases a rapid development that was unthinkable 3 years ago through a range of instruments and genres explored fearlessly and expertly on their greatest achievement yet. Against the odds, Bombay Bicycle Club have triumphed.
Review by Andrew Lambert