At the end of last year, when London four-piece Bombay Bicycle Club dropped ‘Carry Me’, some people took the groaning synth and brash, fidgety percussion as a sign – or warning – that the band’s classic guitar-based sound had been ditched. For the record, this reviewer wasn’t completely convinced by ‘Carry Me’ the first time around. Though its looped ferocity and syncopated enunciation of the title improved after a few listens it is understandable why some long-time fans might have jumped on their own bikes. ‘Carry Me’ is catchy, exciting, and downright impressive, but, unlike the band’s best and most beloved songs, it’s not very beautiful.
As it turns out, traditionalists needn’t have worried. ‘Carry Me’ is basically a one-off on the album. In fact, the song that immediately follows it, ‘Home By Now’, almost seems designed to reassure any listeners that ‘Carry Me’ let down; it’s a duet between Jack Steadman and Lucy Rose backed by simple guitar and a pair of only slightly electro-manipulated piano chords. So, if ‘Carry Me’ didn’t grab you, don’t despair. Listen to So Long, See You Tomorrow, and you’ll find an album which delivers the beauty and intimacy to be expected from BBC, along with some unexpected but exciting electronic experimentation.
‘Home By Now’ is one of the loveliest tracks BBC have ever done, but really that accolade could be given to almost every track on here. There’s ‘It’s Alright Now’, built around a marching band-like loop which could be imagined playing at a Disney princess’ wedding. There’s more welcome electronic experimentation in what the band have called a Bollywood sample on ‘Feel’, a cheeky souvenir from head cyclist Jack Steadman’s recent trip to India.
And then there’s ‘Come To’, which calls you back for repeated listens with an addictively joyous loop which pops up in the chorus – it’s a pitch-altered jumble of oohs and aahs from Lucy Rose. Rose, who’s sung on three out of four BBC albums now and really should be considered an honorary member, gets the mike to herself for a bit of ‘Home By Now’, a beautiful duet between her and Steadman. But there’s a new kid on the block in the form of Rae Morris, a nineteen-year-old newcomer who sings on the opener and closer of the album, as well as the well-chosen new single, ‘Luna’. Jack Steadman, as ever, is pleasantly calm and understated, affecting without being overwhelming.
Lyrically, Steadman uses his usual style of simple yet poetically suggestive lines. Steadman’s lyrics have always aimed at a kind of poetry, but they’ve never fallen into pretentiousness or irritating obscurity. There’s only so much you can say about sunlight, but Steadman is doing his best to commit it to record. For anyone interested, six out of the ten songs on this record mention light or sunlight in some way. That’s not a complaint, of course – the repetition of Steadman’s favourite words is the proof of his unpretentious sincerity as a lyricist. His lyrics are predictable the way your best friend’s facial expressions are, but they’re never annoying.
So Long, See You Tomorrow is the fourth great album in a row for Bombay Bicycle Club. For this listener, at least, every song was immediately likable and different in its own way, which is a welcome step up from 2011’s sometimes over-homogenous A Different Kind of Fix. At a more experienced and better-resourced period in their career, BBC are willing to shake things up a bit with electronic elements which enhance rather than replace their distinctive sound. A potential contender for album of the year. Oh, and buy a physical copy. You can animate the album artwork by spinning it.