Last year Bombay Bicycle Club hopped onto my radar and narrowly missed a spot on my top ten list with their folky Flaws. As talk began about the follow-up, their third release, I heard alot about going back to a more electric sound. I was a bit worried and a lot disappointed, as the sparseness and melancholy of Flaws is what made me love it so much. Now that I’ve heard A Different Kind Of Fix, little has been done to nullify my concerns.
Not that this new record is bad, it’s just a tad lesser-than. Jack Steadman’s vocals are still pretty glorious, and the sound throughout the record is definitely listenable, there’s just nothing progressive or evolutionary to get me excited about the music. Really, in all truth, it sounds like the band was listening to a lot of stuff (Coldplay, Friendly Fires, Reptar, Mumford and Sons) and said, we should make an album that sounds like all this mixed together. A terrible idea.
My feeling is that maybe they should have taken some time off. Three albums in three years is a tall order for anyone, and the pressure they put on themselves to crank out another record may have been their undoing. A Different Kind Of Fix actually shares a lot of the same combinations of vocals and guitar chords that make Flaws so good, but it gets muddied up with reverbs and drum loops and other electronic production trickery that devalues the lyrics and feeling. In an effort to make the album different from their prior release, Bombay Bicycle Club has let insecurities dictate the quality of their album.
When they talked about electric, I assumed they were talking about guitars alone, but there’s actually not a very noticeable difference in the guitar work, other than it’s a bit faster here. The guitars, along with everything else on the record that isn’t Steadman’s voice, are pushed to the back more often than not. The only instrument that really gets to shine is the drums of Suren de Saram. He does a good job with what he’s given, but it’s not enough. And when they do let the guitars sit front and center, they do exactly that. It’s in a terrible song called “Lights Out, Words Gone,” and it’s comparable to something you’d hear on Lite FM stations by artists like Jon Secada.
I’m being harder on this record than it deserves because it is such a disappointment to me, personally. I’m sure the guys are very proud of the album, and really making any album and getting it put out worldwide is impressive, so well done for having three of them. I guess I was hoping that A Different Kind Of Fix would be a bigger musical departure from Flaws instead of just being a watered-down version of a bunch of other UK bands. This is still a record deserving of a spin, and at worst it makes decent background music for when you’re cleaning the house or waiting for Ambien to kick in.