In their nearly 10 years of existence, London four-piece Bombay Bicycle Club has undergone numerous self-imposed sea changes in their musical output. Debut album “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose” found the band arriving a half-decade too late to the post-punk revivalist party spearheaded by the likes of Gang of Four-emulators Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads. Sophomore effort “Flaws” bafflingly unplugged all the dance-punk guitars for a completely acoustic and overly delicate folk record. Follow-up “A Different Kind of Fix” split the difference, and was consequently short on personality.
The latter record generally struggled with an anxiety over picking musical sides, save for bouncy single “Shuffle,” a hint at the power-pop to come for album number four. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” harnesses the energy of that track into their finest full-length effort to date, an album in which the Bicycle Club seem to have at long last discovered the music wherein their greatest talents lie.
Chalk some of their past shortcomings up to youthful inexperience, if you will – none of the band members are over age 24. “So Long, See You Tomorrow,” however, replaces indecision with confidence, quaintness with charm, and fragility with sturdiness. It’s power-pop in the finest sense: 10 hook-filled songs teeming with danceable energy, and a wide variety of sonic elements to engage the full-album listener.
The album’s newfound voice undoubtedly follows in part from its production: nine out of the 10 songs were produced solely by lead singer Jack Steadman. Steadman bumps up the electronica elements to grooving success on single “Carry Me” and the pretty “Home By Now.” Opener “Overdone” soars with its sample from Indian film composer Kishore Kumar, one of the album’s several incorporations of world music (see also: the Afropop elements of “It’s Alright Now” and “Feel.”)
Steadman’s subtle verse-huge chorus arrangements aren’t the only parallel to the successful electro-pop of Michael Angelakos’ Passion Pit project: “Tomorrow” similarly sets downtrodden and heartbroken lyrics to ecstatic music. And marvelously, Bombay Bicycle Club grab hold of the healing power of dance music and cast aside navel-gazing melancholy. Even nearly-forgettable slow burner “Eyes Off You” ignites with layers of driving percussion halfway through.
“Luna” is the album’s high point, figuratively and melodically speaking, with a chorus that elevates into sublime levels thanks in part to backup singers Rae Morris and Lucy Rose and co-producer Ben H. Allen, who has worked with fellow rave-minded acts Animal Collective and Cut Copy. It’s an easy song to love on an album with very little to dislike.