Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws (2010)

This is a lovely, lovely album – taking their jittery rhythms and distinct vocals, but stripping off the distorted guitars and noughties-indie sonic cliches, you get down to the roots of Bombay Bicycle Club’s USP – decent songs. Sounding far more American folk (and Harry Smith’s celebrated Anthology is cited as a key influence) that north London guitar wielders, fans of Iron & Wine won’t find much to complain about: sounding like a fleshed out Sam Beam from Crouch End is most welcome, thank you very much.

‘Rinse Me Down’ and ‘There Are Many Ways’ don’t say much, but say it gently, fitting for a band recording these songs in bedrooms and small spaces. ‘Dust On The Ground’ is a cover of a tune from the first album, and whilst not an improvement, it’s definitely an interesting move, presenting what amounts as a cover of one’s own tune – an admission that it wasn’t up to scratch, or an attempt to make it a standard? Whichever, it works wonderfully well here, opening up a nakedness in the lyrics that wasn’t so apparently when surrounded by swelling guitars.

After ‘Ivy and Gold’, a jaunty sea-shanty-esque cut, ‘Leaving Blues’ does exactly what it says on the tin, with a heartbreakingly lovely lament, detailing the moment of leaving one’s lover in a powerful way. Keeping with appropriately titled songs, ‘Fairytale Lullaby’ sounds both magical and sleepy, a fair way of describing the general tone of the record. It’s a pity that you can’t but help wonder what these songs would sound like in the light of their debut, but without that, this would be a spectacular folk-rock record, a la Mumford and Sons’ debut.

‘Banjo’ uses banjos, ‘Jewel’ is actually quite forgettable (sounding more like everyone else than B.B.C.), but My God is tense and menacing, as well as skipping along at a much faster pace. Being a definite, bona fide new song (a lot of the others are b-sides or re-recorded tracks), this has the shock of the new, as well as being really rather good (having more of a Howl-era B.R.M.C. vibe about it). Title track, ‘Flaws’, a duet with emerging talent Lucy Rose, is utterly gorgeous, and a great way to round out the official album. Bittersweet, melancholy, but divine nonetheless, it’s a brave high point to end on.

Hidden track ‘Swansea/Evening Song’ uses some Joanna Newsome lyrics, but original music – it’s a grower, that’s for sure, slowly developing into a bleepy avant-folk echo-room of oddness – finishing with an acoustic cover of ‘Evening Song’ from their debut, there’s fun here, as well as seriousness and heartache. As an experiment, it’s worth a whirl, and as an indicator of where B.B.C. might go next, the future’s bright.

6/10

Key Tracks: Leaving Blues/My God/Flaws

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