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Bombay Bicycle Club

A Different Kind of Fix

(Universal / Island; US: 6 Sep 2011; UK: 29 Aug 2011)

The title of Bombay Bicycle Club’s 2010 album, Flaws, is half-ironic, yet also half-true. On one hand, it disembarks (for the better) from the pop of 2009’s debut, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, diving deep into the singer-songwriter vein of M. Ward and Conor Oberst with primarily all-acoustic tracks. This proved upon its release last year that the college-aged quartet weren’t just four boys who knew how to write catchy dance beats, but grown men who knew how to write compelling and emotive songs. At an age when none of them could even legally buy a drink in America, Bombay Bicycle Club were no longer just an English pop group chasing sounds for the next car commercial; they were a band on the verge of breaking down barriers within the English rock scene.


Yet now that their third album has arrived, BBC’s work a mere year and a half ago has already lost its place as their finest achievement. A Different Kind of Fix makes Flaws’ title seem like a psychic premonition of its legacy within the band’s discography. This time around, listeners will lap up the stellar production these guys unfold as they extend their reach for taller heights and newer possibilities. On the first track, “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep”, guitarists Jack Steadman and Jamie MacColl enter with a layered melody that builds like the cold opening of a TV show drama, enticing us with both excitement and worry while equally begging the question: Where the hell is this going? And then BAM! Drummer Suren de Saram kicks in with the intensity of Walter White staring down a line of police cars with a loaded weapon, and it’s at this one-minute mark that all concern of a commercial ploy flies out the window. “Can I wake you up/ Is it late enough?” Steadman cries in his Jim James-like croon, and with what BBC has in store for the next twelve songs, you wouldn’t give a shit if he dumped a bucket of cold water over your head along with it.


When Bombay released the single “Shuffle” one day prior to A Different Kind of Fix’s release date, fans were treated to a free sample of the band’s newest endeavour: laid-back Passion Pit piano-pop with a lick of Foals’ hazy rock, and though it was no doubt a band stretching themselves, there was also no denying it still fit the mould of Bombay’s earlier M.O. to build songs they could sell to the masses. But with how seamlessly the album’s tracks move one into the next, “Shuffle” doesn’t come off as intentionally commercial, but rather a case of being the most radio-friendly song for the band to choose at the end of recording. There’s an onslaught from which BBC could choose: the Interpol-like “Bad Timing”, the folk-acoustica “Beggars” that eventually takes off with a bass line akin to early Cure, or even the chillwave dance track, “Lights Out, Words Gone”. With such an eclectic grouping of songs but a thread of ambient tones weaved throughout all 13 tracks, A Different Kind of Fix takes derivatives from the band’s native peers, strips them to the core, and rebuilds them as the 2011 model of British alt-rock.


On the final track, “Begs”, Steadman wheezes into the mic, “I beg you / Come/ Say you need it now,” and he sounds like a man devoid of all esteem and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, considering how worn down this record already is from my initial listen a week ago, I’d love to just pat the frontman on the back and tell him he’s succeeded admirably. You can relax, I’d say.


But I guess this review will have to suffice.

Rating:

Matt has been reviewing for PopMatters for only a short while, but he's been obsessed with music ever since he started forming memories. He watches way more TV and Netflix than he ever reads, but when he does read, he reads Bill Simmons' Grantland. He contributes to MVREMIX, as well as writes for his own blog, The-lysine-contingency.tumblr.com. He resides in Los Angeles.


Media
Bombay Bicycle Club -- Shuffle
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