Music Review: Bombay Bicycle Club's "I Had the Blues But I Shook them Loose"

12/26/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Jessica Bender

The British bands we stumble upon, whether it be from radio or, often sound eerily similar. Arctic Monkeys sound like a cleaner version of The Libertines; Coldplay is this generation’s U2; and Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight and Kasabian all fall into the genre of post-pop. Combine all of these sounds together and they would probably create an extremely clean, harmonious sound. Even though the idea of this sounds great, it just proves that all of these bands don’t really stand out from one another. If the majority of bands from overseas don’t do so, are there any acts that break out of the mold? Fortunately, there is hope in a band called Bombay Bicycle Club.

The four former schoolmates from London (Jack Steadman as lead vocals, Jamie MacColl on guitar, Ed Nash on bass, and Suren De Saram on drums) have slowly been receiving recognition since releasing two successful EPs, and they now are ready to go global with their latest album, "I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose." Despite the band barely passing the legal drinking age in America, each song suggests a maturity that implies that they have learned a lot during their teachings, mainly in the area of social studies.

From the strong opening instrumental, “Emergency Contraception Blues,” and onwards, the band mostly succeeds in showcasing their strong lyrics and individual, passionate performances. Steadman’s quivery vocals give a deeper angst in each song that wouldn’t exist if the band had another singer. This is most true in “Autumn,” where his vocals match the somewhat painful lyrics about how difficult it is to be honest with those who need to hear the truth. His voice also is good when a songs calls for him to sound somewhat creepy, more specifically in “Dust On The Ground,” where he almost resembles a reincarnated Ian Curtis.

Steadman’s voice probably is the signature of the band, but the other players are just as talented. The slow, dramatic build-up of instrumentals in “Evening/Morning” resemble a slow-motion action scene that turns back into normal speed at the start of MacColl’s first instance of Muse-inspired guitar riffing. Nash’s terrific bass skills are highlighted in the summery-sounding “Always Like This,” while the Strokes-tinged “Magnet” has De Saram working in double-time to beautifully coordinate with MacColl and Nash’s synthesizing.

The one Achilles' heel the Club does have is performing mellower songs. The weakest song on the album, “Ghost,” is simply a bland song. The lyrics are slightly confusing, Steadman seems too timid and nervous, especially when uttering the f-bomb, and the guitar and drums aren’t that impressive. However, one mediocre song out of 12 isn’t so bad for a debut album.

As "I Had the Blues But I Shook them Loose" demonstrates, Bombay Bicycle Club won’t be going anywhere for a while. Currently chosen as one of the best albums of 2009 by Britain’s influential NME, perhaps this next year will let these four U.K. youngsters approach other ground, such as America. One thing is certain, though--the band will not be serving curry on my doorstop anytime soon.

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