Any attempt to categorize Bombay Bicycle Club is now utterly futile with the release of its third album, A Different Kind of Fix. Although not as jarring of a shift as the band’s strictly acoustic second album, Flaws, BBC still managed to surprise fans by expanding beyond the guitar-centered indie sound of its freshman record with a more electronic and production heavy Fix.
BBC has combined its freak-folk vocals and indie-dance rhythms with the digital instrumentation of Animal Collective’s producer, Ben Allen, to create something truly addictive.
Listeners enter the album with “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” which begins with a minute-long prologue of muted vocal wails layered over light guitar riffs from Jack Steadman and Jamie MacColl. This opening feels like it belongs in every indie movie soundtrack past, present and future, something which makes it quite lovable. The track introduces two of the major themes of the album: infectious melodies and incessantly repetitive lyrics.
One of the catchiest tracks on the album is the single, “Shuffle,” released a day before the rest of the album. The track opens with a ragtime piano beat — similar to Matt and Kim’s “Daylight” — that makes it impossible to avoid nodding your head. The track continues with a dance-inducing drum beat, soothing and bouncy vocals and rhythmic hand-clapping. By the end of the song it is clear why the song was chosen as the single. It is incredibly listenable, and there is literally nothing objectionable in it.
The harmonies and instrumentals remain fresh throughout the whole of the LP. However, the band has succumbed to the enticing use of a single repetitive lyric to carry the load of the vocals throughout most of the songs. On the first track, the line, “Can I wake you up/ Is it late enough?” is repeated over and over, with the instrumentals providing the only variety.
This technique, used in the same vein by Death Cab For Cutie, leaves the listener wishing that each time they hear the lyric is the last. Although the hooky beats and silky guitar chords do a great job of drawing most of the song’s attention, you eventually notice you have heard the same nine words repeated throughout the entire track and just want to hear something different.
Despite the lyrical faults, Steadman’s voice is an instrument in its own right. Steadman reflects the band itself in his impressive versatility. Throughout most of the album, Steadman has the pleading warble of Jim James’s Iron and Wine, but more of a Jim James on ecstasy. Then in the final track, “Still,” he reveals a more naked and distressed voice that will leave at least a few listeners wishing he would sing a cover of “Hallelujah.”
What makes this album most impressive is its subtlety. As you move through it, you aren’t ever positive whether it’s truly got you convinced or not. The waves of soft drums, jaunty keyboard and ethereal backup vocals wash over the album without allowing listeners to realize how much you are truly appreciating it.
But eventually the pleasing aesthetics of Fix are nearly undeniable. The band’s melodies flow into the subconscious like a welcome dream, leaving room for a craving of another fix of the album.
4 stars out of 5