Sophie Seddon reviews Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth and first UK number 1 album.
So Long, See You Tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth effort, comes three years after their previous album release, a decision that has clearly benefitted them. After the release of ‘Carry Me’ and ‘Luna’ on Zane Lowe’s Radio One show, this album has been highly anticipated in contrast to their previous records. From the opening drone of Jack Steadman’s voice in ‘Overdone’, to the dreamy and soft and electronica reverie of the titular track, this album is full of surprises.
This isn’t unusual for the band. Bombay Bicycle Club has been surprising us since their initial beginnings in 2006 when they emerged from North London. They’ve experimented with a variety of sounds ranging from their first alternative/indie-punk album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose to A Different Kind of Fix, an album described by The Guardian as ‘artful-dace rock’. Off this album came ‘Shuffle’, a track guaranteed to make you feel better on a rainy day, with its joyful piano kick-starting a rampage of dance-induced melodies from the guitars and Steadman’s voice flowing steadily with it, you’ll be dancing round your lounge in a matter of seconds, just out of pure pleasure.
To an extent, So Long, See You Tomorrow does maintain parts of its predecessor’s dance-rock genre, but it is refreshed with inspired tracks from the singer’s travels to Turkey, India and the Netherlands. The album becomes more psychedelic, with Indian Bollywood vibes and it is evident that the time taken out to focus on this album has paid off, improving their sound by playing with their identity, and finally finding their feet. It’s a good deal of fun.
Album opener ‘Overdone’ is fabulous, the Indian jangle slowly building to the crash of drums and the twill of the guitar. The vocals flow along with the strings in an echoing motion. The drums ease, to allow the lyrics to shine through, with Steadman pining ‘Tell me was it enough when we were first in love to plant the seed and just leave.’ It’s catchy but not shallow; the lyrics reflect the band’s growing maturity. The combination of blunt lyrics and unsteady rhythm leave a peculiar impression, almost as though I’d just listened to my own thoughts.
Flowing directly into ‘It’s Alright Now’, the album maintains some continuity. The electronic overlapping voices create a dance vibe, the drum beat forming an army drum roll. It’s paired with high-pitched vocals, the eclectic mix of sounds forming a fantastic original one. But it’s ‘Carry Me’ that really drives this new genre for the band: crashing symbols, the beat pulsing through the monotonic guitar and vocals. It is essentially a dance tune, but also reflects the mature themes shown through Steadman’s lyrics. The repetitive ‘you carry, you carry, you carry me…’ is circular, reflecting a broken relationship that constantly goes round in circles, similar to the beat and rhythmic pattern. At first, you just feel like tapping your feet, but the message the song offers you is actually quite poignant.
The R’n’B twist in ‘Home By Now’, with the sharp, irregular but repetitive piano notes, is made more severe by Steadman’s gentle vocal slumber over programmed beats. It almost appears as though the music continues to follow the irregular state of mind demonstrated through the lyrics. This follows through to the initially slow and soft ‘Whenever, Wherever’, where the lyrics take centre stage. The dramatic repetition of vocals suddenly takes lift to another dance beat, and more piano. But the lyrics are pining, passionate: ‘Words that appeased you, words were always dressed up to please you. Promising “someday”, whispered to you so desperately all night…’ I couldn’t help but feeling connected to this album through my own thoughts and feelings, the lyrics slowly making a lasting impression despite being masked by the electronic and dance vibes.
The vibrant ‘Luna’ is next, a song where all the instruments are in perfect harmony with each other, rhythmic and playful, with fabulous vocals from Rae Morris. ‘Eyes Off You’ echoes that of James Blake, haunting and centred on a piano. But ‘Feel’ is the hidden gem from this album. The Indian vibes come back with a vengeance and the progressive beats, looped vocals, continuously expressing ‘just one feeling…’ It is probably the best track of the record: colourful, fun, thoughtful, something you can move to.
The album takes an interesting turn at ‘Come To’. The artful dance rock of this album blends with the earlier indie rock Bombay Bicycle Club, forming a heavy drum beat and steady vocal. Despite being a strong song, it feels a little out of place on the album. ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ brings this euphoric record to an enormously satisfying end, the gentle beginning guiding you up to the final two minutes, where the beat comes back in, and the looped vocals return for the finale.
The end of the album feels like the end of a night out… 3am has just rolled round and the taxi rank begins to fill. It is an incredible record, and yet the range of instruments and the variation of sound mask the brilliance of the lyrics, which though simple, actually remain one of the best things about this album. There is a mixture of passion, longing, want, desire, heartbreak, and just plain nonsense. But, it gives this colourful record a soul, a record that makes a lasting impression.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth reincarnation is certainly one I hope they consider sticking too. The vibrant personality of the music is striking, and it does make a mark on you. But I also can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. Every single album has been a delight to experience as they transform themselves and become more confident in their line of work. Particularly as it always seems to involve having a lot of fun…
So Long See You Tomorrow is available for purchase now.