Bands or artists taking a sudden change of direction is a rare thing these days, especially if they’ve had even a modicum of success in a previous incarnation. Bombay Bicycle Club turned enough heads as a rough and tumble indie outfit to suggest that their particular future lay in battling it out with the Pigeon Detectives. Not so, it seems, as their rapidly recorded second album sees them ditch all we previously thought we knew about them in favour of an out and out acoustic sound, inspired by lead singer Jack Steadman’s root through his father’s record collection.
It’s a bold move, one that should be applauded but also one that doesn’t quite hit the target. The self-produced record sounds lovely, proving that they have completely understood the dynamic required to make a project like this work – no surprise perhaps given that guitarist (and now banjo operative) Jamie MacColl, grandson of folk legend Ewan. The playing is crisp and understated, topped off with exquisite harmonies. It’s all impressively mature for a band of such tender years, yet we can’t help but yearn for a little of that old (ie last year’s) vitality.
For all its merits, there are very few moments on Flaws that stop you in your tracks. When they do (as on -Rinse Me Down’, -Ivy & Gold’ and -Fairytale Lullaby’) this is a truly great record. Too often, though, it’s just a good one, and you wonder if that will be enough. The world of adolescent guitar music is a fast moving one and turning their back on it, no matter how briefly, could prove difficult for Bombay Bicycle Club. There may be no going back for them, but given that this has already outstripped their debut’s chart position, they could well see no need to. What could be really interesting is if they decide to move forward by colliding their two worlds.