September 21, 2011

Test Spins: Bombay Bicycle Club, A Different Kind of Fix

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A Different Kind of Fix, Bombay Bicycle Club’s third full length album, is a welcome return to form for the rising British indie band, following the group’s disappointing and aptly titled sophomore album, Flaws.  A Different Kind of Fix features more of the looping lyrics and hypnotic basslines that made the band’s 2009 debut album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, such a success.

The main issue with Flaws was that it is an all-acoustic album. While lead singer Jack Steadman’s nasally yet enjoyably light voice can carry certain songs on its own, Bombay Bicycle Club is at its best when its instrumentals lock into the group’s unique, head-bob inducing rhythmic groove. Flaws lacked this trademark, but A Different Kind of Fix features several songs that will make you lose a couple calories from bopping to the beat.

The album opens with “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” an energetic piece that features some of the album’s loudest sounds, which, for a Bombay Bicycle Club album, is not saying too much.  The song is very catchy and will become an instant favorite unless you have heard it several times while repeatedly watching the latest Twilight movie (It’s on the soundtrack, OMG!).

“Your Eyes,” “Lights Out, Words Gone” and “Shuffle” follow the same formula laid out by the album’s opening song, with Steadman repeating the same pleasant melodies over momentum-building instrumentals. The formula is largely successful, particularly on “Shuffle,” which is the album’s, and perhaps the band’s, standout song. Released as a single two months before the album’s release, “Shuffle” opens with a mesmerizing piano line that continues throughout the entirety of the song and will likely loop in your head for several days after your first listen.

“Your Eyes” is where Steadman displays his vocal range and “Lights Out, Words Gone,” a more subtle version of “Shuffle,” is the most complete sounding song on the album. The inclusion of female vocals, provided by Lucy Rose, adds a layer of depth to “Lights Out, Word Gone” that a peppy song like “Shuffle” can’t provide.

Rose’s second notable contribution comes in “Beggars,” one of the few acoustic songs on the album.  While the song is reminiscent of the all-acoustic Flaws, the infusion of a woman’s voice gives the song’s sound a folksier feel, much like what Regine Chassagne brings to Arcade Fire or what Charity Thielen adds to a band like The Head and the Heart. Whereas the other top songs on A Different Kind of Fix will have you dancing, “Beggars” will lure you into a pleasant sleep with Steadman’s melancholy words and wholesome guitar.

Now A Different Kind of Fix does have its flaws (no pun intended).  “Still” is a boring, high-pitched ballad that lacks any variety, while “Fracture” is an unfortunate return to the drawn out acoustic crooning that made much of Flaws so boring.

As a whole, Bombay Bicycle Club has been good so far in its young career, but not great. Their best songs have an unmistakably original “Bombay Bicycle Club” sound to them; their lesser songs come when the band tries too hard to imitate fellow established bands.  Songs from Bombay Bicycle Club that sound a lot like Fleet Foxes or Mumford and Sons would probably sound much better if they were actually performed by Fleet Foxes or Mumford and Sons. Furthermore, the group’s lyrics, especially on this latest album, do not seem to carry a significant message, and thus lack the lyrical draw expected from today’s indie music.

While the lyrics may not be profound, the carefree levity of the group’s sound makes the album an accessible and enjoyable listen. A Different Kind of Fix has more hits than misses, so listen to everything this album has to offer.  Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back to the handful of songs that simply make you want bounce around.

Original Author: Brian Gordon