Even when reunions are no longer surprising but inevitable, Bombay Bicycle Club’s return is striking: just four years after they split, here is a fifth album, made after they met to discuss playing 10th anniversary shows for their 2009 debut and realised they missed making music together. It’s curious that Everything Else Has Gone Wrong started from a nostalgic impulse. For all that BBC put a cosy spin on 2010s jittery indie, they pushed and evolved beyond their twiddly peers: their bright final album, 2014’s So Long See You Tomorrow, dabbled in the global music influences that frontman Jack Steadman later explored as Mr Jukes.
But Everything … is a regression: all bloodless, drab silvery chunter, like Alt-J – who at least have the audacity to be aggressively terrible – with the stubborn kinks ironed out. Producer John Congleton’s work (most famously with St Vincent) is usually gleaming and ruthless. Here it’s crowded – I Can Hardly Speak features enough shaky percussion to arm a primary school music class; distracting spacey blips abound – and indistinct: a motorik pulse might spark up Is It Real, and female vocal samples splice I Worry Bout You and Let You Go, but the songs sag quickly. Steadman drifts atop all this like pond weed, croaking in trademark Indie Voice about the wan anxieties of fast-ossifying adulthood.
None of it is compelling or well-written – the constant lyrical repetition really grates – especially when he attempts grand statements. I Can Hardly Speak might concern the perils of echo chambers, but Steadman fails to make a point that would resonate in his own bubble, let alone pierce another; the moody People People is a meek wish that humankind could “make a subtle difference” through connection. It is music for adverts that depict a human life unfolding in 45 seconds as a heartwarming reminder to buy a mid-range European hatchback.
Most baffling is Good Day, which contains vocal “doo doo doo”s, twee twinkly bits and scratchy-chin-emoji lyrics about melting ice cubes prompting existential thoughts about the environment; and how Steadman “would quit my job if I had a job”. This odd, possibly tactless statement sums up the level of conviction on show here.