Album reviews: Bombay Bicycle Club, Broken Bells, Suzanne Vega, Breton

 

Bombay Bicycle Club “So Long, See You” (Tomorrow Island)

The argument that great bands often only have one or two core ideas, honed obsessively, comes to mind when listening to Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth album. After their indie-rock debut, folksy second, and persuasive art-rock third, the Crouch End four’s expansive latest album bursts with ideas gleaned from mainman Jack Steadman’s global travels. A band with ideas? That’s a welcome prospect at a time when most young guitar bands have none, but So Long’s strenuously busy patchwork leaves you wondering how something so superficially impressive ends up making so little impact.

The answer lies in the way the Bicycle Clubbers rarely deliver these gap-year reports with decisive force enough to thrill, or dwell on an idea for long enough to fulfil its promise. With knotty riffs, psychedelic synths, martial drums and jubilant chorales jostling for focus, the first two tracks fail to lodge in the memory. When things improve with the Bollywood-sampling prog-funk of “Feel” and broken beats of “Carry Me”, you want to say there’s never a dull moment.

But the stress on scale over distinction in “Whenever, Wherever” provides a workable modern definition of dull: another band who uphold early Arcade Fire as arena-targeted alt-rock’s gold standard.

The buoyant “Luna” lifts the weight with a purposeful melody, but it’s a loop that leaves the more lasting impression. When the album climax feeds back into its opener, it’s hard to shake the sense that Bombay Bicycle Club are going round in circles: travelling a lot, without knowing where they want to go.

**

Kevin Harley

Broken Bells “After The Disco” (Columbia)

The first Broken Bells album was a glorious thing – wrapping the indie stylings of Shins frontman James Mercer in an electro-pop cloak courtesy of Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. The collaboration felt like a small step forward.

Four years on, and the Broken Bells sound has not changed much but the pop climate has, with artists such as John Grant taking the duo’s template and running with it. It is, then, not entirely Mercer and Burton’s fault that After the Disco feels like a bit of a disappointment.

Matters are made worse by the duo’s fascination with the 1980s, sounding like A-Ha one minute and Howard Jones the next. It is not a bad record – Danger Mouse doesn’t make those – but it does feel safe and predictable rather than fresh and exciting. 

***

Simmy Richman

Suzanne Vega “Tales From The Realm Of The Queen” (Cooking Vinyl)

The Vega songwriting style is hardwearing. Essentially, she’s a writer who sets words to chords and then works up an arrangement to suit her theme. As a style it runs and runs – no friction, no stress. But it is also heavily dependent on the arrangements being “interesting” where her tunes and voice are not necessarily so.

Tales explores themes to do with materialism and spirituality and takes a philosophical tone, even as it spins yarns from the realm of the author’s Scheherazade imagination. The chords turn over, the tunes settle on them like fleeces and Gerry Leonard’s artful arrangements do their quiet thing, a skirl of Araby here, a spike of electric guitar there, tasteful distortions and all. It is like being mobbed by lambs. 

***

Nick Coleman

Breton “War Room Stories” (Believe/Cut Tooth)

Breton are a multi-media gang with an underground mentality. Live, they’re all hoodies and homemade backing films; on record, they pack potent reserves of indie-dance firepower. At best, the follow-up to 2012’s Other People’s Problems upholds both fronts.

Recorded in Berlin, it sustains their debut’s art-pop ambition and skunk-paranoia glower in the itchy dubstep of “S4” and treated agit-vocals on “Legs & Arms”, yet leavens both with the steel-pan flurries of the club-friendly “Envy” and ecstatic rhythms of “Search Party”.

The album’s end stretch meanders, but the fidgety techno bounce of “Got Well Soon” makes its point, which is that Breton have it in them to draw converts on their own outsider terms. 

***

Kevin Harley

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

    The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

    They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
    A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

    Dropout generation failed by colleges

    £800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
    Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
    Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

    Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

    Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch