After their shift from the electric indie rock of their debut album I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, to the acoustic folk-tinged style of their second effort Flaws, fans of relaxed rockers Bombay Bicycle Club were left guessing as to what their third studio album would sound like. And the revelation of its title, A Different Kind of Fix, hinted strongly that the quirky quartet from Crouch End were searching for a new thrill with their latest record.
And fans were right to be excited: A Different Kind of Fix sees a return to the electric style of the first album, with the benefit of their acoustic venture and a whole host of new sounds woven into the fabric. Elements of electronica and, according to lead vocalist Jack Steadman, hip-hop in lead single ‘Shuffle’ demonstrate the band’s dedication to producing fresh material with each release. Textures are more dense now, with an emphasis on synths and rich vocal harmonies (contributed in the upper register by the alluring softness of Lucy Rose) and a wider use of guitar and vocal effects. Yet the listener is left with a feeling of satisfied saturation, as opposed to an overdone bloating.
Despite this exciting new exploration from the bohemian bikers, classic Bombay riffs still drive the music, retaining the rock solidarity of I Had the Blues and preventing the record from floating away with the ethereal vocals and arcing synths, or getting lost amongst the heavy reverb and dense textures. Steadman’s characteristic ‘reach for the heavens’ vocal deliverance also remains, along with the usual thought-provoking lyrics. The band’s previous releases have featured a number of popular hits amongst a set of more homogenous, bland tracks. A Different Kind of Fix doesn’t offer so many catchy songs, but is of superior quality and diversity throughout, with most tracks having something important to offer. And, there are still a couple of seriously catchy songs, such as lead single ‘Shuffle’ and my personal favourite, ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’.
In ‘Shuffle’, BBC once again demonstrate their ability to produce, from a simple riff (here a rhythmic piano loop), an instantaneously and undeniable ‘Bombay sound’, sure to engender knowing smiles and a rapid energy-surge on indie dancefloors across the country. ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ is a trance-influenced song about regret and hope. Featuring Lucy Rose’s gently colouring harmonies, it is a manifestation of BBC’s new ‘synthy’ sound, but remains rooted in their distinct style by the assured rhythm section and memorable riffs. Track seven, ‘Beggars’, opens in a Flaws vein and is reminiscent of its song ‘Leaving Blues’. It is destined to be a festival anthem although BBC omitted it from their Reading 2011 set list, favouring ‘Shuffle’, ‘Lights Out’ and others.
With this latest collection, BBC fans get their money’s worth. Each track is thoughtfully composed, the rich textures building up with patient efficiency, and the shortest track weighs in at a respectable three-and-a-half minutes. Three studio albums down, and Bombay Bicycle Club continue to provide their yearly (if A Different Kind Of) fix. Either way I’m impressed, but I still don’t have a clue what they’re singing about…
Good: A diverse record, expanding on an already popular formula
Bad: Could do with a few more really catchy, ‘get-it-on-the-first-listen’ tracks