“Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” – Bombay Bicycle Club
Here, in the midst of a buzzy, quasi-anthemic piece of late-issue indie rock, I’m finding that the moment that sells me is when an abruptly perky synth lick grabs the ear at the top of the mix after the third of the three-word choral incantation (“wake,” first heard at 0:34). If you re-listen you’ll hear how well set up the moment is, a climax emerging from the rubbery noodling the synthesizer has been doing from the start. And yet when you first hear it it’s this marvelous upward prompt that punctuates and re-sets the piece in a curiously satisfying way.
In fact let’s call the entire song curiously satisfying, starting with how its hypnotic groove, emphasized by a nearly sub-aural bass line, is no mere sonic affectation, but is in fact germane to lyrics that speak of obsession so thorough as to render days a rote ritual of waking and sleeping, as if hypnotized. And even though this may seem to be about someone in thrall to an absent lover, front man Jack Steadman is actually here expressing his desire to get back together with his band mates, as Bombay Bicycle Club had been on a hiatus for a few years. This seems a helpful distinction, and to me accounts for the musical uplift of the aforementioned synth lick; being obsessed with reuniting with your band in times of national uneasiness (they’re from London) seems, indeed, more righteous than just being another 21st-century guy singing about his lover’s body.
I’m also taken with Steadman’s vocal delivery, which conveys a shaky determination, half resigned and half resolved, reminiscent of Conor Oberst on a sturdy day. The verses acquire a claustrophobic momentum, with Steadman barely taking a breath, but we are always led back to the chorus and that mind-clearing synth lick. Note too another song that does not overstay its welcome; I’ll never understand why some bands take the positive quality of insistence and depreciate it into redundancy. (In fact, all four songs this month clock in within the perfect 3:33 to 3:49 range. Well done, everyone!)
A quartet whose origins date back to 2005, Bombay Bicycle Club recorded four albums between 2009 and 2014, to a good amount of critical and popular success, did a bunch of touring, then decided to go their separate ways in 2016. Both singer/guitarist Steadman and bassist Ed Nash pursued solo projects, but after three years the group found its way back together. “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” is their first new recording in five years, and will be found on their the album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, which is due out early next year. The song was produced by John Congleton, known in recent years for his work with St. Vincent and Alvvays. MP3 via KEXP.