I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (Live at Brixton Academy) should come with a disclaimer. Immediately from the first sounds of cheering on ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’, this album creates an almost painful longing for live music. You may even shed a tear when hearing the crowds echo lead singer Jack Steadman in ‘Always Been Like This’. It’s enough to make you miss the feeling of spilt beer on your skin and hearing more of what your neighbour is belting than the actual band you came to see.
The album was recorded on 8th November 2019 at Bombay Bicycle Club’s O2 Academy Brixton show, the last night of the tour commemorating the tenth anniversary of their 2009 début album, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. The band’s last album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, was released in January, their first new studio album after a six-year hiatus.
Eleven years on, it would be an understatement to say this live album is being released in slightly different circumstances than the original. However, musically speaking Bombay Bicycle Club have retained the same energetic gritty sound from their beginnings. The grainy, slightly cynical guitar riffs in the first track ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ and on ‘Cancel On Me’ make it sound as if the band were playing a small spontaneous underground gig and not the O2. Throughout the live album though, it becomes obvious they’ve been playing these songs for over a decade; not in the sense that they feel tired, but rather that the band works like a well-oiled machine.
What really what makes this album amazing is not that it sounds musically that different from its studio version, but that it’s a testament to the dedicated fan base Bombay Bicycle Club have built over the last decade, and Jack Steadman’s chemistry with his audience. ‘Always Been Like This’ expresses this feeling best of all. The crowd at the O2 sings along to every word and gives this track a sense of depth, poignancy, and a fuller sound missing from the original album. This feeling is also obvious in ‘Lamplight’, in the bridge when the bass and guitar delicately come in, and the tension and excitement of the crowd seems to builds endlessly.
It’s hard not to over-interpret every song on I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (Live at Brixton) and apply its lyrics to the world today. ‘Dust On The Ground’ is a stand-out track on the album, and feels like a cathartic moment in their live performance. It sounds slightly sharper than the studio version, but what comes through are feelings of pain and frustration. The lyrics “With such a weight / You throw me down / And I am inches above / The dust on the ground”, and “Always silent / Always silent now” seem like the band spookily predicting a lot of 2020 angst before it even happened.
This album’s version of ‘The Hill’ also taps into feelings of nostalgia – and Bombay Bicycle Club does nostalgia pretty well, as shown in ‘Good Day’ on Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. Before playing the ‘The Hill’, Steadman describes how the band wrote most of the songs on the album when they were 15 and doing their GCSEs, singing about “mundane” things like sitting together on a hill by their school. This doesn’t seem so mundane, now that seeing friends has become so complex, and the chorus “I want to go back to old times” seems especially fitting.
I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (Live at Brixton) might just be the dose of energy we needed to get through this last month of 2020. It’s nostalgic and angsty in all the right places, but leaves you with a strong carpe diem-esque feeling – and maybe some hope for the coming year.
I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose (Live at Brixton) is out today (11th December).
Words by Clara Dijkstra
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