Bombay Bicycle Club’s So Long, See You Tomorrow initially comes off as plain noise. The English indie band has been developing and transforming its sound since its conception in 2005. They started out in the clear-cut alternative genre, floating through the noise, trying to identify their own particular style. Experimenting with silence and quiet in the album Flaws and raising its voice with A Different Kind of Fix, the band has released all of its energy and emotion in a brilliant cacophony for So Long.
The singles “Carry Me” and “Luna” enliven and define the album. Loud and passionate, the songs ring out with a taste for life, or, better yet, for living. They attest to the rambunctiousness in all of us, the need to break out of our shells. “Carry Me” starts with a Radiohead-like display of techno-despondency, before breaking into a world of percussion and background sizzle. The noise, which initially may come off as obnoxious, grows on the listener. It’s what makes the song’s quiet notes worthwhile. Bombay Bicycle Club has mastered the balance; having transitioned between retro-indie and contemporary indie since their conception, they’ve reached the ideal middle ground.
Other songs take a split from the normal Bombay theatrics. “Eyes Off You” is surprisingly quiet, relying on the treasured vocals of Jack Steadman. It’s songs like these that make Bombay Bicycle Club increasingly difficult to define: Many of their songs venture to the extreme end of experimental modern music, but others are more visceral and bare. Not until the end of the song does the band hype up the percussion for a worthwhile climax and a beautiful send-off.
The song “Feel” is probably the worst contribution to the album. It’s hard to distinguish whether or not the mix of erotic club music and diverse instrumentals is working out for the song in general. Steadman’s voice gets lost in the mass of conflicting noises. “Overdone” makes better use of experimentation (surprisingly—since as its name implies—many of the sound effects are quite overdone). The lyrics don’t have to compete with the music because the song makes it clear from the start that the words aren’t integral to the feel of the song. However, the lyrics are still fun: “I eat the world away to be asleep throughout the day.” That’s the life.
“It’s Alright Now” is easily the highlight of the album. “It’s alright now, I don’t want to wait” is the only audible phrase, but it doesn’t matter because there’s still something utterly flawless about the way the song is put together and executed. Upon analysis, however, the lyrics are what truly give the song vulnerability and nuance: “Made a plan to be someone / Mess it up when the moment comes / Step away, step away, stay numb.” The tone of the song itself breathes initiative and action, so it’s surprising that many of the lyrics seem to lament days past, moments lost to mere trivialities. Often the musical buffet of the instruments distracts us from the words, which are often sad or self-berating.
So Long, See You Tomorrow is as good as it needed to be to signal a step forward for Bombay Bicycle Club. The band has grown tremendously in style, skipping from genre to genre, always redefining itself in alignment with its own definition of the zeitgeist. If they haven’t mastered the art of contemporary music, they’ve surely grasped the importance and excitement of change.
4 out of 5 stars