PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Bombay Bicycle Club: Flaws

Flaws is the loveliest sound of a band totally losing the plot. Perhaps they’re equally as trapped by the calloused fingertips of folk as they are the grubby fingernails of post-punk.


Bombay Bicycle Club

Flaws

Label: Universal UK
US Release Date: 2010-07-20
UK Release Date: 2010-07-20
Amazon
iTunes

Named after a bourgeois curry franchise, Bombay Bicycle Club made quite a stir a few years ago with EPs The Boy I Used to Be and How We Are. These records issued the band’s signature sound, and were as creamy white and tempered as those restaurants’ interiors. There was a politeness to them, perhaps a lack of bite. It turns out that this has been the band’s staple ever since, but there was also a restless creativity to those EPs that helped to push them to the top of the UK Indie Charts.

There was just a dash of unaffected attitude to them, so Bombay Bicycle Club's current reluctance to rock out hints at a self-serious sophistication, a stand-in for the squealing noise made by their many peers. Nevertheless, these early records were lovely. Pinned by vocalist and guitarist Jack Steadman’s quivering, pining voice, they told of a maturity and a dynamism that reached far beyond their 16 years.

They carried those records’ best songs -- "The Hill", "Sixteen", and "Ghost" -- into last year’s debut, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose. It was, perhaps, less successful than their avid fan base had hoped, and it met mixed reviews. It was also a slow burner, and it was easy to mistake this for their being tedious, or having simply not applied enough thrust to their music. However, there were occasions on this record when they threatened to burst, to make good on their promising teenage kicks. Yet they largely kept it restrained, so these moments of overdrive were merely points of punctuation. The new material failed to match the old and, excepting "Dust on the Ground", "What If", and lead single "Always Like This", it wasn’t an easy album to love. Only the album closer, "The Giantess", hinted at the band's new folk-based direction, and even that was kitted with an electronic beat.

To support I Had the Blues, Bombay Bicycle Club played a series of acoustic showcases. They are continuing to do this to support Flaws. At those gigs, the band's singular, devastating flaw became apparent: the star of Bombay Bicycle Club is Jack Steadman. The rest of the band are certainly competent, but Steadman combines the songwriting engine, the vocal force, and the instrumental prowess to shine brighter than the rest of them combined. It’s likely that he’ll go solo at some point, and it’s likely that this will be successful. It’s also likely that Flaws was made largely at his command.

Flaws is the loveliest sound of a band totally losing the plot. While still polite, the band are earthier, more pastoral, but they sound a little homeless. Perhaps they can’t decide if they’re from the deep South, the Midwest, or from deep within the English countryside. Perhaps they’re equally as trapped by the calloused fingertips of folk as they are the grubby fingernails of post-punk.

Of course, Steadman dominates. He leads the band through the plains of "Dust on the Ground", borrowed from I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose. He also makes them wait at the crossroads of "Leaving Blues". Surprisingly, it’s not a Leadbelly cover. It is, however, utterly, devastatingly, beautiful.

The album’s sense of displacement -- geographically; from the band’s back catalogue; from the expectations of genre confines and pigeonholes -- makes it a confusing whole. The triplets of "Ivy and Gold" and "My God" make way for gorgeous vocal harmonies, and "Rinse Me Down" is both open and intimate. However, Flaws suffers because there’s little in the way of logical progression between it and its predecessors. Bombay Bicycle Club's move from indie belligerence to bucolic folk doesn’t signal a development in their sound. Instead, it just seems like they’re being inconstant. Only on closer "Swansea" does the band branch out, embellishing their sound with keyboards and drums treated with dollops of reverb. Perhaps where "The Giantess" indicated their move towards folk, "Swansea" indicates their move towards mournful psychedelic pop. Its drones are layered and there’s an interesting interplay between electronic and organic sound. It would be very interesting to hear Bombay Bicycle Club explore this sound further.

It’s far more original then any of their previous efforts. However, where Flaws diverges so far from what we expect, it’s likely that any further experimentation would make the band lose focus entirely.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.