In an AMA (an arena where fans get to ask public figures questions) on famous internet forum Reddit earlier this year, Bombay Bicycle Club described their newest album So Long, See You Tomorrow as “definitely our most dance and electronic influenced album to date.” As a personal fan of the funky guitar riffs of past albums, I must admit that I was more scared than cautiously optimistic of the direction of the English group’s 4th LP. Hailing from North London, Bombay Bicycle Club has established themselves in a niche of toned-down etherial rock, whose true talent shines through in their subtleties rather than boisterous attitude. As frontman Jack Steadman puts it: “We don’t shout loudly ‘this is me’ but we’re happy to sit down for an extended time and tell you in a soft voice.”
If I could describe BBC’s musical style in one sentence, that quote would probably sum it up quite accurately. I guess when I read that comment about dance and electronic influences, I was scared because I expected So Long, See You Tomorrow to incorporate the negative parts of electronic music like headache-inducing bass drops and sweaty, molly-induced dance floors. Luckily, listening to SLSYT induced none of those feelings, but rather fit them subtly into the typical form of the band’s sound smoothly and coherently.
These influences are apparent from the very start of SLSYT, as opening track “Overdone” opens with a surprisingly upbeat and driven synth progression. Steadman’s voice seems to cut through the drums on this track with a new-found intensity, where on previous albums he would have lightly hovered on top of the instrumentals. This is surprisingly effective, and adds a more aggressive element where one previously lacked. “Come To” and “Home By Now” employ this effectively, also, while tracks like “Carry Me” and “Eyes Off You” sound like they could be plucked straight from one of the band’s previous albums.
A particularly impressive aspect of SLSYT is its use of female vocalist Rae Morris, who completely makes some tracks. Admittedly, due to this album being so similar to those of the past, it was severely in need of something new to spice it up. In adding Ms. Morris to tracks like “Luna”, “Eyes Off You”, and “Home By Now”, the album gains a much-neede new dimension which pushes it over the precipice of mundanity. Whether she’s used in harmony or on her own for a chorus, Morris’ appearances are welcome diversity for a band and an album which, in some instances, could really use it.
As a cohesive work, the album flows nicely, coming in with a (relative, Bombay Bicycle Club-esque) band and exiting softly. What I’ve noticed about BBC in the past, and what continues on So Long, See You Tomorrow is the fact that they’re just extremely easy to listen to. Nothing about them is offensive, yet they avoid the boring vanilla classification that has plagued so many bands before them with catchy riffs that refuse to leave the brain. In some ways, however, every time I finish So Long, See You Tomorrow, I find myself yearning for more. I wish that, in a way, they had changed a little more drastically. As I previously stated, at times it felt as though I was listening to one of BBC’s previous albums. And while those albums were good, they had their time. I have no doubt that the quartet from North London are talented musicians; I just would have liked to have seen them step outside of their comfort zone a bit more.
With gigs lined up at Coachella (and hopefully Lollapalooza) and across the US on a tour, Bombay Bicycle Club is seeking for this album to bust them into the American indie mainstream thanks to their newest record, where their previous three albums have made minimal impact. A simple search on Sterogum.com doesn’t yield a single review of any of BBC’s past work and reviews from Pitchfork.com are lukewarm (surprise, surprise). Even so, the band persists, and as I came to London to study abroad, I’ve discovered a massive amount of support. Perhaps it’s just an English thing. So Long, See You Tomorrow is close to remarkable, but probably won’t wind up on any year-end lists. That being said, it’s definitely worth a listen. You can stream the album below.
Key Tracks: “Overdone”, “Luna”, and “Home By Now”
Rating – W-P-3/4
RIYL: James Blake, Washed Out, and Animal Collective