Reviewed: Bombay Bicycle Club

I had been curious about hearing Bombay Bicycle Club’s second album, ‘Flaws’. Last year’s debut had been satisfying enough but rather top-heavy, propelled by the success of promising singles ‘Evening/Morning’, ‘Dust on the Ground’ and ‘Always Like This’. BBC’s presence on the British Indie scene has been under scrutiny ever since the band won the poisoned chalice of Channel 4’s ‘Road to V’ competition four years ago; with the inevitable media hype surrounding such an achievement, it was often forgotten that BBC had two more years of school left before they could concentrate full-time on their music.

‘Flaws’ is a charming album, showcasing not only BBC’s developing talent for songwriting, but providing an insight into their more folksy influences; marketed as an interim acoustic album, but not at the expense of quality. Jack Steadman’s gently lilting voice sounds just as at home on opening track ‘Rinse Me Down’ as on any electrified number from ‘I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose’. ‘Many Ways’ is self-deprecating bluegrass with Steadman the vulnerable, indecisive youth on whom the burden of an undisclosed, unsavoury choice weighs heavy. ‘Dust on the Ground’ is dusted down from ‘I Had the Blues’ and given a more mellifluous mix, before golden track ‘Ivy & Gold’ twinkles light-heartedly by – though lyrically rather pedestrian, a sultry summer sing-along nonetheless.

The unhurried and beautiful guitar-picking on ‘Leaving Blues’ is a perfect opportunity to hear Steadman’s trademark vibrato. It is followed by a cover of the opening track to John Martyn’s 1968 debut, ‘Fairytale Lullaby’, whose saccharine tone (riding a rainbow, sugar fish, catching a star) is soon undercut by the falling cadence of ‘Word by Word’ and the descent back into brooding self-contempt on ‘Jewel’: ‘Our love was just one of your old discarded jewels / You think of its price and oh you feel a fool’. Indeed, the mood of the second half of the album seems to mimic teenage depression and despair, as Steadman rounds on a loved one in ‘My God’. The tone is accusatory, the guitar insistent and cloistering; most disdainful of all are the vocals, retreating into inward reflection, Steadman muttering ‘My God’ to himself as the track fades out.

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The album ends on strangely unmemorable title track ‘Flaws’ and a Joanna Newsom cover, ‘Swansea’, which though experimental is slightly half-arsed, choosing only the first two verses and neglecting Newsom’s ever more surreal lyrics of rows of bungalows distending ‘like endless toads’. Despite that, BBC’s second full-length is still a quietly alluring piece, showing in parts the enticing turn of phrase and compositional magnetism that had Laura Marling nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize. Maybe now would be a more appropriate time to show Bombay Bicycle Club some of the hype that was so superfluous four years ago.