This isn’t so much a song as a thought, a mood, an attitude. When it comes to writing songs without words, it’s easy enough to come across all brooding and serious and profound and sensitive but as soon as you add lyrics into the mix, whatever that intense intention was at the outset gets inevitably diluted by the thousand explicit, implied and other meanings of those very words. The existence of songmeanings.net and a whole range of lyrics sites attempting to define the real purpose of the songwriter and on which every teenager with real deep connections spouts their opinion on what Jack Steadman really meant when he sung ‘There’s a story here in which my eyes shut’ is a bit of a contemporary oddity. Suffice to say that as far as ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ goes (no question mark, I checked), the meaning of Steadman’s crooning takes a backseat to its actual crooning. For once, the words don’t undo the sentiment of what is a really beautiful, simple song.
When ‘Shuffle‘ first turned up on my radar back in July last year, the first single from the London quartet’s third album, ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’ appealed to me as just that, an upbeat, poppy alternative to the depressing shuffling of LMFAO, replete with handclaps and a scat breakdown and propulsive drumming which often sounded like it was jumping the gun, so keen to get out ahead of the falsetto melody was it. In reality, while it was a welcome change to the dross I was encountering on the radio at the time, it was pretty stock standard indie pop rock, albeit done with some panache. A semester’s worth of disc jockeying in Philadelphia where we took requests and those requests always seemed to be the one girl begging for more Bombay Bicycle Club gave me the hunch that there must be more to the group than the happy-go-lucky sound of ‘Shuffle’. Turns out obsessive compulsive Clubber was right.
While I haven’t been on board for the evolution of Bombay Bicycle Club since there start as champions of the ‘Road To V’ [Festival] competition in 2006, the maturity of this track – and its a word that I don’t like to rely on, given how abused it is in the general press – is striking. The fourth single from ‘Fix’, it demonstrates yet another side to the band as it moves beyond indie pop beginnings, pretty and . Yes, there are that many sides to this band. Built around the simplest of guitar riffs, repeated on loop but never to nauseating effect and joined by just the right kind of snare-and-cymbal-heavy drumming just over a minute in, ‘Sleep’ doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere much. And yet, in the folds of Steadman’s expressive vocals (so rich it doesn’t end up matter what he’s saying) and delicate, whispered harmonies, it’s certainly moving. Real meaning aside, ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’ is an exercise in creating a mood – and sustaining it even with words. Another side to BBC, executed with expected ease. Dodecahedron Bicycle Club.
Bombay Bicycle Club – How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep