Review : Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws
PitchforkBombay Bicycle Club's debut album, last year's I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, posited the group as imitative but energetic post-punk revivalists, doling out artily precise pop-rockers with liveliness and strong chops. The band now follows that effort with its all-acoustic sophomore long-player, Flaws.
Wait, did I miss a few steps? Since when does a boisterous young rock group make a full-on introspective acoustic move on its second freaking album? This may come as a shock, but Bombay Bicycle Club didn't exactly master its initial sound on its debut (most bands don't manage that feat in just one album). The group's members are barely out of their teens, so perhaps the fickleness of youth explains their inconstancy. In any event, it seems that between records someone fell hard for the pretty folk of Nick Drake, John Martyn, and Joanna Newsom. And by "someone" I mean "probably lead singer Jack Steadman," given the extent to which his words and voice now dominate the proceedings. Kind of makes you wonder how on-board the rest of the band were with this abrupt stylistic shift.
Taking a folkier turn might make sense on paper considering Steadman's voice possesses a nicely quavering element that isn't far off from Devendra Banhart's. Yet the lyrics and arrangments here aren't a fraction as bold or as singular. Flaws is well-produced, many of its songs nicely augmented by fleet drumming and intricate guitar figures, but Steadman's lack of having anything interesting to say and inability to say it distinctively ultimately sinks the endeavor. Sure, the guitars on "Rinse Me Down" evoke Out of Time-era R.E.M. while "Many Ways" offers pleasant Sufjan-ish banjos, but Steadman replaces the incision of those artists with empty floridity and moody romanticism. The group covers Martyn here, and it's telling that they choose the juvenilia of "Fairytale Lullaby". If Steadman and his mates are really so dead-set on being sober young men, someone needs to buy them a copy of Grace & Danger, stat....full text
GuardianLast year's I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose unveiled Bombay Bicycle Club as an indie band with zest, harmonies and effects pedals. However, the follow-up finds them ditching electric guitars for acoustic folk, enabling guitarist Jamie MacColl to follow his dynastic calling – his musician father Neill co-produces. There are some lovely songs – Many Ways is particularly pleasantly reminiscent of the first Lilac Time album. However, none of Jack Steadman's own words quite match the descriptive beauty in a cover of John Martyn's Fairytale Lullaby ("Bow your head, let your eyelids close on down"). Although the occasional restrained bass works well, this transitional album works best with just voice and guitar: Rinse Me Down would sound better without any drums, never mind machine gun rolls. Leaving Blues is Steadman's haunting account of having to say goodbye, which he might find himself singing to the rhythm section before long....full text
BbcThere was a vogue last year for second albums that were markedly different to the artists in question’s debuts. Jack Peñate, The Maccabees and The Horrors all changed direction, and mostly for the better. The latter in particular earned praise for their about-turn, from mediocre goth-rock to a tantalising blend of krautrock and post-My Bloody Valentine drone.
Bombay Bicycle Club – BBC to their friends – have arguably effected the most radical volte-face of all. Their first album, 2009’s I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, was promising indie noise-pop, also bearing a pleasing MBV influence. Right at the end of the album, though, there was a relatively pared-down piece of poignant acoustica called The Giantess that, little did we know, pointed the way towards their second release.
Flaws, co-produced by guitarist/backing vocalist Jamie MacColl’s dad Neil (brother of Kirsty, son of folkie Ewan) and mainman Jack Steadman (lead vocals, guitar, xylophone, banjo), is almost entirely acoustic, whether it’s the original material or the covers – there’s a version of John Martyn’s Fairytale Lullaby, while Swansea features lyrics from the Joanna Newsom track of the same name. Deeper investigation of BBC’s catalogue will reveal that their single B sides were often acoustic, but still, hearing a whole album of folk, blues and country-inflected ballads (apparently inspired by Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music) from the NME’s Best New Band of 2010 still feels quite odd....full text
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