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Reviews

Bombay Bicycle Club
I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose Stephen Eddie , July 13th, 2009 06:48

So you've come a long way since playing gigs in schools assembly hall. You've won the Road to V Festival competition, put out a couple of EPs on your own label (Mmm... Records), played Reading and Glastonbury and tours sponsored by jeans, and released your debut album on the venerable Island label. But even though you've attracted gushing column inches and are wondering what songs to play at festivals across Europe while your friends are worrying about uni fees, you whack your band name into Google and still find more links to the Indian restaurant you're named after than anything else.

That's the deal with Bombay Bicycle Club. They might not be as popular as the Hampstead curry house, but the teenage four-piece have been picking up positive press almost since their inception in 2005. A lot of that's due to singer Jack Steadman' voice, which is still the most striking thing about BBC – a warble somewhere between Orlando Weeks, Devendra Banhart and drunk Paolo Nutini. It doesn't actually make an appearance until after blustery instrumental opener 'Emergency Contraception Blues' , and it soon becomes apparent that, on tracks such as 'Ghost', it's a voice so wayward as to make the lyrics indecipherable. This, though, is arguably preferable to when it's varnished into an Editors/Interpol style baritone, as on 'Dust On The Ground'.

But while Steadman sounds pretty unique, the music on I Had The Blues... sounds disappointingly familiar throughout. In the case of 'Ghost', or the scrappy indie on 'The Hill' and 'Cancel On Me', it's because they're old tracks lifted directly from the band's 2007 EPs. Their lazy appropriation of the sounds of others is even more disappointing, whether it's Vampire Weekend on 'Always Like This' or various glum, post-punk revivalists (do we need yet another?) on 'Evening/Morning' and 'Magnet'.

And that's the problem. Listening to I Had The Blues..., an album that's been about three years in the works, it's difficult to hear much more than further dumpings on the great landfill of mediocre indie that's been blighting the musical landscape in that time.

In Bombay Bicycle Club's defence one could point to the hints of glitchiness midway through 'Autumn', and acoustic closer 'The Giantess' as signs of maturity, musicianship (Jamie MacColl's guitar playing on the latter is undoubtedly good) and potential. But when you consider what so many others have achieved at this age, youth isn't an excuse for a so-so record.

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