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


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

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.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.