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Bombay Bicycle Club -  I Had The Blues But I... Album Cover

Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had The Blues But I...

Reviewed by
7.8
Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose
Record Label: Merge Records (US); Island Records (UK)
Release Date: Aug. 11, 2010 (US); July 6, 2009 (UK)
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
So it's finally arrived on our shores. The much-ballyhooed, highly-praised, oft-celebrated album I Had The Blues But Shook Them Loose, from Britain's Bombay Bicycle Club. So after nearly a half-dozen listens, here's the simple facts: This band is horribly overrated.

The 90-second instrumental opener "Emergency Contraception Blues," begins with urgent and excitable guitars that slide their way across the speakers coasting upward before ending far too soon. The intro segues right into the dusky "Lamplight," a ragged offering with a bursting chorus and underutilized vocals. While it's an effective and attention-grabbing opener, it does little to bolster the argument that vocalist Jack Steadman is one worth celebrating. The entire exercise feels like a band trying far too hard.

The Mancunian "Evening/Morning," rustles along with a dirty, hiccupy movement. Steadman pushes his vocals a little further and the result is a significant step forward from "Lamplight," and offers an elucidated sense of the Britons ever-capable skills. "Dust on the Ground," begins like a mistake but moves along to a more comfortable place half-way through.

Unfortunately, nothing about the song separates it from its predecessors and already one has to question does Bombay Bicycle Club have any other tricks up their sleeve? The straightforward, mid-tempo tale "Ghost," is an attempt at honesty and a compelling storyline but aside from glistening guitarwork there's not much about it that's worthy of accolades.

"Always Like This," is the album's first home-run, a bass-heavy lo-fi stab at funk that allows both Steadman and his bandmates to rise above any of the album's prior offerings. While this is all well and good, it should be noted that waiting four tracks for something like this is mildly frustrating. Do bands expect us to have the patience of saints?

The second half opens with "Magnet," which offers a variation on a theme, and bops along without any sense of palpability, solvency or ethos. Sure it's a great song for a playlist, but does that mean its superlative and sterling? Not at all. And unfortunately "Magnet," just sounds forced, uninspired and distant. At this point, listening to I Had the Blues, feels like we're flies on a wall listening to the band practice in a rehearsal space

Thankfully there's a song like "Cancel On Me," to come along, which finds strength from Steadman 's biographical lyrics and one of the disc's few moments of air-tight precision. "Autumn," offers little more than slivers of each of the prior eight, with the exception of a drum machine halfway through, which offers a layer criminally underused by the band. The song's last 90 seconds reveal a glimmer of just how sparkling these British lads can be when they try. Though it will probably never be explained, there's something guttural and moving about the final 90 seconds that separates it from the rest of the disc.

After sitting through so much disappointment the near-flawless "What If," showcases the band firing on all cylinders. And then as if cognizant of how little variety there has been, the acoustic closer "The Giantess," enters the fray and does little to dispel the fact that Bombay Bicycle Club might actually have prescience and polish embedded deep down somewhere.

Being that this is the U.S. release, the disc features three bonus tracks to round out the listening experience. So how are they? "Open House," is as flat as any of the other aforementioned throwaways, while the epic "Curl Up Like a Dead Leaf and Go Where the Wind Blows," explodes at the 2:30 mark and meanders its way through four more minutes, all the while while swimming in seas of celestial ambience.

Album closer "Glass to Glass," borrows the acoustic framework of "The Giantess," but dresses it up a timeless fingerpicked movement replete with a lilting trumpet. If ever a band needed to end on a high note ,its most definitely these guys and thankfully "Glass to Glass," is the ideal song to patch things up.

While its certainly far from perfect (read: not even close), I Had the Blues But I Shook Them has moments of intrigue. That enough should propel them farther and perhaps keep them in the conscience of American music fans. But if this reviewer's opinion is worth a grain of salt, the bloated hype is just that, hype. Maybe record three will settle the score.

Track Listing 1. Emergency Contraception Blues
2. Lamplight
3. Evening/Morning
4. Dust on the Ground
5. Ghost
6. Always Like This
7. Magnet
8. Cancel On Me
9. Autumn
10. The Hill
11. What If
12. The Giantess
13. Open House
14. Curl Up Like a Dead Leaf and Go Where the Wind Blows
15. Glass to Glass


Bombay Bicycle Club is Jack Steadman: lead vocals, guitar, xylophone, banjo
Jamie MacColl: lead guitar, backing vocals, banjo
Ed Nash: bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, mandolin
Suren de Saram: drums, guitar, backing vocals


Recommended If You Like War Tapes, Klaxons, Kasabian, The Rapture, Arctic Monkeys, Datarock


FInd Them Here Website
Myspace
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 19
09:50 AM on 08/09/10
#2
Johnny Famous
Becoming a jackal..
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Took me a few listens but i'm hooked on them at the moment. There new record thats just came out in the UK ( not sure when its US release date is ) which is titled Flaws, is brilliant, all acoustic and is definitely worth checking out.
09:53 AM on 08/09/10
#3
jco3
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Hm, I hadn't heard of these guys... Will check out.
09:54 AM on 08/09/10
#4
Gregory Robson
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Took me a few listens but i'm hooked on them at the moment. There new record thats just came out in the UK ( not sure when its US release date is ) which is titled Flaws, is brilliant, all acoustic and is definitely worth checking out.
That sounds like something I'd like. At least it took you a few listens too. I gave this five tries and then gave up. If I can't like it after the fifth, it's a lost cause. But I will definitely give the new one a shot. Thanks for the tip.
10:12 AM on 08/09/10
#5
Dre Okorley
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Interesting name. Will check them out. Thanks, Gregory.
10:32 AM on 08/09/10
#6
Matthew Tsai
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Dude you are a review machine.
10:37 AM on 08/09/10
#7
grrrrr
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Didn't like the review. I don't agree with your analysis of the tracks, and thought it was a little cynical. It was well-written though, and I think I've liked some of your other reviews, I just don't agree with your points on this one. It feels like you've skimmed the surface of the tracks very superficially with your nose upturned throughout.

Also, you reference the band 'trying too hard' and 'sounding forced'.. what does this mean? They're trying too hard to seem like accomplished musicians? trying to sound lyrically deep? trying to implement hooks or pop-choruses? Could you elaborate?

You write that "Magnet" has has no sense of palpability, solvency or ethos. Is this a necessity in a song? Not every song has to have a mission statement or strong sense of purpose. If you listened to a mostly instrumental song and it only had one or two arbitrary words sung repeatedly throughout, would you label it redundant?

Measuring a band up against the hype surrounding them will never give a solid review, you'll find your opinion has already been polarized, either it does live up to it and is fantastic, or it doesn't and it's a total flop.

You also write about "Magnet" twice, and seem to have conflicting opinions of it. This is in the fifth/sixth paragraph. You also refer to them as 'Bombay Motorcycle Club' in the eighth.
10:46 AM on 08/09/10
#8
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Didn't like the review. I don't agree with your analysis of the tracks, and thought it was a little cynical. It was well-written though, and I think I've liked some of your other reviews, I just don't agree with your points on this one. It feels like you've skimmed the surface of the tracks very superficially with your nose upturned throughout.

Also, you reference the band 'trying too hard' and 'sounding forced'.. what does this mean? They're trying too hard to seem like accomplished musicians? trying to sound lyrically deep? trying to implement hooks or pop-choruses? Could you elaborate?

You write that "Magnet" has has no sense of palpability, solvency or ethos. Is this a necessity in a song? Not every song has to have a mission statement or strong sense of purpose. If you listened to a mostly instrumental song and it only had one or two arbitrary words sung repeatedly throughout, would you label it redundant?

Measuring a band up against the hype surrounding them will never give a solid review, you'll find your opinion has already been polarized, either it does live up to it and is fantastic, or it doesn't and it's a total flop.

You also write about "Magnet" twice, and seem to have conflicting opinions of it. This is in the fifth/sixth paragraph. You also refer to them as 'Bombay Motorcycle Club' in the eighth.
For starters, I fixed the mention of Motorcycle Club. So thanks for alerting me to that. Also the fifth paragraph's mention of "Magnet," wasn't supposed to be included, so I will fix that as well. So thanks a second time.

As for the rest of it, seriously dude, please. What the hell do you want from me? I sat down with the record five times, and never liked it any of the five times. I'm sorry that's such a problem for you, but it is what it is. My nose upturned? You have got to be joking. Eda has been pushing this band for months, I've been stoked to listen to it. Normally when there's a buzz about a band (Beach House, Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend) I end up loving it, so your point about the hype influencing the review, is so far off base it's not even funny.

Re: "Magnet" having no palpability. At that point in the album, the band hadn't thrown out very many good songs (just my opinion). I wanted just one song to shiver and shake with some kind of connectivity, and I was hoping it would be "Magnet." That didn't happen. It's a great pop song, it just doesn't have that extra special kick that I was looking for. That's all.
10:59 AM on 08/09/10
#9
Gregory Robson
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Dude you are a review machine.
Many of these were written awhile back, I was just waiting until the release dates, at the request of the labels. But thanks for the kind words. Much obliged.
11:12 AM on 08/09/10
eatbabiesyum
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i like these guys :D
12:27 PM on 08/09/10
Johnny Famous
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That sounds like something I'd like. At least it took you a few listens too. I gave this five tries and then gave up. If I can't like it after the fifth, it's a lost cause. But I will definitely give the new one a shot. Thanks for the tip.
No worries man, i agree if you can't get into it after five listens then thats fair! The first release is good but Flaws is amazing! Hope you enjoy and top review by the way.
02:07 PM on 08/09/10
cinderandsmoke
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"Cancel On Me" and "Evening/Morning" are definitely my favorites. It's an okay album, I think most of the record loses steam after a 7 or 8 listens. The singer has one of the most unique voices I've ever heard, though, I absolutely love it.

Flaws is a much better album, though. It has a Joanna Newsom cover on it as a closer, which kind of makes the whole thing for me.
03:40 PM on 08/09/10
Kyle Huntington
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Whilst I obviously disagree with this review massively so (see: http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=1174092 and http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=1719732), I can understand why you have the impression of the album and the band that you do, but it should be noted that they are no longer "that band". For a band that is no longer particularly "proud" of their debut (although that be a little too harsh of a way of putting it) they translate and mix the songs up very well live. The band are no longer as into these songs or this record because they wrote the majority of them (bar the likes of your favourite "Always Like This") when they were about 15/16. They are now 20/21/22 and it's only just released in the USA.

As somebody has already mentioned their newest record is entirely acoustic and influenced by the stuff they have always loved, but that was on the more folk side of the fence. John Martyn (cover included), Loudon Wainwright III etc. This is a record they are really proud of because again, whilst there are a couple of older songs on there and a re-working of "Dust On The Ground", the majority is new stuff that they adore. I have been fortunate enough to see them on both electric and acoustic tours, and they excel in both. Jack's voice and guitar playing/song writing really is something else, and as for their next "full band" record, they have said they are aiming far more in a direction of where "Always Like This" took them.

Like I said, you wouldn't necessarily go into this record thinking "they wrote these songs when they were 15 so I'll give them a break" and I understand some of your points because of that, but it's so far detatched from where they are as a band now. I still love this record, still listen to it almost daily along with their new record, the eps and their b-sides. Definitely not over-hyped.
04:25 PM on 08/09/10
wawawa
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Strange that this album is only getting to the U.S. now, seeing how they just put out a new album. Either way, it's wonderful. So is Flaws. <3
04:27 PM on 08/09/10
Kyle Huntington
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Number of BBC fans in here I didn't know existed on the site.

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