Music

Bombay Bicycle Club’s demos EP: what’s new, what’s old, and what you need to hear

Ah, Bombay Bicycle Club, one of the most heralded indie acts of the late naughties. When the band announced they’d be getting back together, I practically yelped in excitement. I hadn’t even realised it had been a whole ten years since their debut album hit shelves.

Today they celebrated that 10 year anniversary with a new EP; Demos 2004-2008. It does what it says on the box, a collection of demos recorded when Bombay Bicycle Club were raw, independent, and in many ways, still teething.

bombay bicycle club demos 2004-2008

Bombay Bicycle Club’s Demos 2004-2008 is like a visit from an old friend; unexpected, most welcome, and punctuated by warm memories.

The EP is stacked with enough treasures for any fan (or new listener) to sink their teeth into, but a few properly stand out. The first and last tracks, those actually labelled as demos, are the ones you’ll recognise in their entirety. First up is Always Like This, a single from 2009 which only subtly differs from the official release.

Dust on the Ground, which closes the demos EP, appeared on the band’s 2010 EP Flaws, albeit as a much quieter version. The demo is more energetic, bears far less melancholy, and showcases an altogether different side of the track.

The EP’s more fantastic moments come via what we haven’t heard before – or rather what’s slightly  familiar. Fans of Almost Famous would, for instance, recognise this unforgettable sequence from the film which gets sampled in Drugs:

Hearing Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) exclaim “I am a golden god!” wasn’t something I knew I needed in the cannon of naughties indie rock, but alas, here we are. The song itself is markedly more psychedelic than the early musings of Bombay Bicycle Club, perhaps birthed as a live or in-studio jam that was considered to wild for the early releases. Ode To Lucy bears a similar feeling.

There’s also the chance it took them a decade to clear the sample. I know I’d never stop fighting for that one.

Never Serious sounds like an early version of Cancel Me, an album track from I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. In the end they went a little harder, a little louder, and all around, a little bigger.

And one that’s less obvious; the breakdown from The Finger became a pre-breakdown moment in Lamplight – again from the debut album. Listen in around 4:25 in the demo, then 2:29 in the album track.

At eight minutes long, The Finger is hardly a radio-ready hit, and its possible that the track was split into many ideas and melodies, ready to show their value when the band needed to borrow a cheeky moment from their back catalogue.

Lifting the veil on your creative process, even if by just a smidgeon, is always a double-edged sword for a band. What if the fans like your demos more? What if they realise what could have been? There’s safety in the final product.

With Bombay Bicycle Club, I didn’t find myself asking those questions, rather I sat back with nothing but a steady grin for 24 minutes. Demos 2004-2008 is a collection of seven gold nuggets for fans, a welcome surprise that really, the band never had to release. But they did.

It makes you wonder what else they’re keeping in their back catalogue, ready to release, rework, or reconsider. With the promise of new music “next month”, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to wait long.

 

Demos 2004-2008 is out now.