The London indie icons sixth studio album is an eclectic collection of tracks that further removes them from their guitar rock origins.
Bombay Bicycle Club have come a long way since their days as wide-eyed 16-year-olds who won a competition to play the 2006 V festival.
Initially championed as the bright new hopes of British indie upon the release of their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, their legacy as modern British greats is today secure. And yet there’s a slight contradiction to their mainstream high standing. The London band are still to land a big “hit” or defining song you may associate with other late-noughties indie originators. Unlike, say, Two Door Cinema Club or The Vaccines, you’ll rarely hear their tunes blaring from Radio X or getting the bodies moving at a Propaganda indie disco night. Somehow, you can imagine they probably don’t care.
Bombay Bicycle Club became loved thanks, instead, to their depth-filled indie-folk sound and warm earworm capabilities. Without being bogged down by the need to produce an indie banger or two per album to gain recognition, they’ve have been allowed to grow and evolve as a band – something which has continued again on their latest album My Big Day.
The seed for their new album was arguably planted in January 2014 with the release of So Long, See You Tomorrow. After taking a couple of years out, Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth studio album was their bravest record yet. It revealed sound experimentation to reflect rave and world music influences, creating cult anthems in ‘Carry Me’ and ‘Luna’. As their status grew further, it felt fitting when they’d finally receive their first UK number-one album and a Mercury Prize nomination.
Then they decided to go on a five-year hiatus and we’d have to wait until 2020 to hear fifth album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong - a solid back-to-basics record but one recognisably weaker and more forgettable than their previous two albums.
Thankfully Bombay Bicycle Club’s sixth album is more in line with So Long, See You Tomorrow than their last. Perhaps not in sound but in the ideal of exploring new styles beyond the guitar world. My Big Day has Bombay Bicycle Club push the boat out once again, producing an album brimming with confidence. The sound of a band on a journey of eclectic self-discovery, all done without the voyage ever becoming too overpowering or alienating to long-term fans.
“Our ethos for this album was, ‘Let’s not worry so much about whether it’s a guitar-y band song” describes frontman Jack Steadman on their new approach to Apple Music, “as long as we’re all digging it, let’s put it on the record.” The proof is certainly in the pudding from the off. ‘Just A Little More Time’ sets the out-of-comfort-zone tone for the rest of the record. “Just a little, little, little more time” repeats Steadman on this smooth opener. While the seven-word repetition might be lyrically simplistic, you can’t help but feel captivated by the surrounding percussion-heavy upbeat jam. Little wonder Steadman described this one as his favourite on the entire record.
Hazy second track ‘I Want To Be Your Only Pet’ then moves us into new levels of haunted-ness, Steadman admitting they were aiming to sound like “Abbey Road era Beatles had a love child with Rated R era Queens of the Stone Age”. The closing whispery refrain of “I want to let go and forget” merging into “I want to be your only pet” is magnificently eerie. A word also on the triumphant drumming found on this track by Suren de Saram, his sublime skillset prominent throughout. Meanwhile, ‘Turn The World On’ is as vulnerable as the band get – an earnest tune acting as the record’s emotional centrepiece which finds Steadman reflecting on becoming a parent.
What sticks this album out from the rest of their discography is the impressive array of guest appearances on offer. And still, as these mostly appear in the second half of the record, you never feel the album is overwhelmed by such star names. The ethereal ballad ‘Heaven’ reaches peak bliss levels upon hearing Damon Albarn’s deep-voiced contribution, while the disco-inspired ‘Tekken 2’ impressively achieves euphoria upon the vocal entrance of Chicago disco legend Chaka Khan within the songs final act.
Then we have the appearance of relative indie world newcomers. The most prominent feature on the album is heard from deadpan vocalist Nilufer Yanya on the more traditional Bombay Bicycle Club sounding ‘Meditate’. Yanya’s voice is complimented by frenetic guitar riffs, soothing synths and a chaotic Radiohead-esque breakdown. On the dazzling ‘Diving’, singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone sweetly adds her voice to compliment the song’s scintillating positivity.
The optimistic ‘Onward’ then gives Bombay Bicycle Club their lighters in the air, rock ‘n’ roll finale - a reminder that, even after the record’s experimental journey, they haven’t entirely forgotten their origins.
On My Big Day, Bombay Bicycle Club further explore stylistic experimental ground and invite collaboration to compliment the new terrain they’ve ventured into. While they’ll likely forever be defined as an “indie rock” band, their latest offering pulls from the world of pop, disco, hip hop and dance. An eclectic collection of tracks which further removes them from their guitar rock origins. And with music this accomplished, it’s exciting to imagine where their journey will take them next.