A partnership made for four
The acclaimed indie-pop band from London are back in their saddles after four years apart
Any band that gets back together after a few years pursuing those sometimes dreaded “solo” projects will often return to face one of two things: a shrug of indifference from a fan base that has long since moved on or a thousand welcomes from a fan base that has spent the same few years waiting patiently for the about-turn. In the case of London band Bombay Bicycle Club, it seems the fans just couldn’t stay away – the comeback tour has been greeted with a thumbs-up.
Of course, 15 years ago no one knew much about Bombay Bicycle Club – they were no more than a bunch of teenagers eager to play gigs. There was a modicum of hereditary musical talent in the mix, however: Suren de Saram’s father is the acclaimed Sri Lankan cellist Rohan de Saram; Jamie MacColl’s father is Neill MacColl (nephew of
Kirsty MacColl, and grandson of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl).
So there was always going to be a varied songwriting aesthetic, and so it proved from quite early on. The band’s 2007 debut EP, The Boy I Used to Be, was released a few months prior to newspapers such as the London Independent running features on them topped with headlines such as “Too cool for school: the teen band who’ve got the music industry on the run”.
By summer 2008 all four members had finished secondary school and set about touring and performing at as many festivals as would have them. They also set about recording their debut album, I Had the Blues but I Shook Them Loose, which was released in summer 2009 on Island Records. The album quickly pitched them as a band to watch, with NME music writer Laura Snapes calling it “the most poignant anthology of what it means to be young and restless in the city since fellow Londoners Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm”.
What followed was the usual trajectory of a group that could do no wrong. Three further albums (2010’s Flaws, 2011’s A Different Kind of Fix, 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow) arrived, each one confirming their status as a compelling outfit that knew their way around indie-guitar pop. Such eclecticism matched with shrewd music intelligence could have continued for a while longer had not the members announced, four years ago, an indefinite hiatus during which they would pursue various solo and side projects.
As these efforts sometimes go, the sum of the parts constitutes more value than the separate elements, hence the festivities when BBC announced their return to the fray last year. It seems they have struck a chord, too, as their recently released new album, Everything Else has Gone Wrong, is once again picking up the plaudits.
Well, mostly – the same Laura Snapes, now writing in the Guardian, described the new album as “music for adverts that depict a human life unfolding in 45 seconds as a heart-warming reminder to buy a mid-range European hatchback.”
For all that, the wheels continue to spin, as these sold-out shows confirm.
Bombay Bicycle Club play Vicar Street, Dublin, Monday, February 10th and Tuesday, February 11th; also Wednesday, February 12th, Ulster Hall, Belfast
electronica, the pair have been in Dublin before (they supported Sigrid), but tonight is their night. Expect songs that, noted The Observer’s Kitty Empire in her review of Ider’s debut album, Emotional Education, last year, “ping confidently around the post-genre electro-pop landscape”. Special guest is the very fine Irish singer-songwriter Eve Belle, who will be performing new tracks (Smithereens, Homesick) and older tunes. TCL
Float Down the Liffey
The Sugar Club, Dublin
As nightclubs continue to shut their doors and dancefloor space becomes even more limited in Dublin, Float Down the Liffey is a mixed-medium show celebrating the remarkable music scene that perseveres. Syncing a dialogue-free film with live performed music, this event brought to you by DabbledooMusic aims to remind the audience just how diverse the music community is. The score, written by Chris Rooney and Alex Borwick, will be performed by Rooney, Borwick and Brendan Doherty on the night. LB
Elma Orkestra & Ryan Vail
Button Factory, Dublin; Thurs 13, Róisín Dubh, Galway; Fri 14, Kino, Cork Rarely have two musicians worked together as well as Ryan Vail and Eoin O’Callaghan. The former has released electronic music that can sit side by side with the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, while the latter has released song-based music under various group guises. Together, however, they have broadened the remit of what it means to make politicised music. “If you’re going to write about something,” Vail said recently to New Sounds magazine, “then write about something.” The result – released last year – is Borders, a criminally underrated album that blends polemic with poetry, ambient music with melody. An audio-visual treat for the senses? Step right up. TCL
Dolan’s, Limerick; also Thursday 13 & Friday 14, Whelan’s, Dublin; Saturday 16, Connolly’s of Leap, Co Cork
“Folk has a new Pied Piper,” wrote the Guardian almost 14 years ago when Co Wicklow musician and songwriter Fionn Regan released his debut album, The End of History. What has happened since is more down to Regan not wanting to be the Pied Piper of anything rather than a decline in quality. Indeed, if anything, Regan has developed into one of the country’s most assured songwriters, with superb albums (2011’s 100 Acres of Sycamore, 2017’s The Meetings of the Waters, 2019’s Cala) delivering a treasure trove of delicate, finely woven songs. Special guest is Dubliner Aoife Nessa Frances, whose recent debut album, Land of No Junction, is a beaut. Both Dublin shows are sold out. TCL
Explosions in the Sky
Vicar Street, Dublin
Texan post-rock band Explosions in the Sky have spent the past 20 years presenting what they term “cathartic mini-symphonies” to anyone that cares to listen. The band’s instrumentals have been featured on many movie and TV soundtracks (The Kite Runner, Friday Night Lights), so we’re guessing you’ve heard the music even if you’re not fully aware of the musicians behind it. With no obvious signs of a new album (their most recent is 2016’s The Wilderness), we can expect a trip through the back catalogue. Special guest is US songwriter AA Williams. TCL
Olympia Theatre, Dublin; also Saturday 15, same venue; Monday 17, Ulster Hall, Belfast
There was always something reassuringly comfortable about Supergrass, the Oxford group that got caught up in the Britpop scene, and who enjoyed chart success with albums such as I Should Coco (1995), In It for the Money (1997), and Supergrass (1999). Five years after their Ramones-referencing, punningly titled 2005 album, Road to Rouen, however, they split up, leaving singer Gaz Coombes to reap some solo reward with three robust pop albums. Whatever grievances occurred in the past, however, have been resolved and, with a new compilation album (The Strange Ones, 1994-2008) plugging the band’s tour dates, it seems Supergrass Phase 2 is well under way. The Dublin shows are sold out. TCL
H&G’S Valentine’s Gathering D-Light Studios, Dublin
In a quest to help you find your soul connection, H&G are bringing together the elements of water, earth, air and fire via art installations by Dodeca, music, food and glitter, so that the cosmos can work their matchmaking magic. In other
Jack Steadman and Ed Nash of Bombay Bicycle Club at the Maho Rasop Festival in Bangkok last November. TAYLOR/GETTY IMAGES
Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, aka Ider, Soundhouse, Dublin , Tuesday
Palaye Royale, Button Factory, Dublin, Sunday Feb 16