Album review

Album Review: Bastille – Bad Blood

After mega-single Pompeii smashed the charts, we were very curious to find out what the album would be like. Would it be 12 Pompeiis? Or would Pompeii not be representative of the album? We had read a few fan reviews on music-discussion forums. The general consensus was generally that tracks were a bit under-produced and thus a bit disappointing. This led us to slightly anxiously purchasing the album, after the last one we bought turned out to be a bit of a dud. Bastille started off a solo project for Dan Smith, but has turned into a ‘band’, or be it one that he very definitely fronts, both vocally and creatively. The album, Bad Blood, released on 4 March, topped the UK charts in its release week.

Track by track opinions:

Track 01: Pompeii. It seems a bit obvious to start the album with the only material the majority of potential-album-buyers have heard from you. We hate albums that are front-loaded and for that reason are not impressed with the song’s position. The album version of the song also has an entirely unnecessary 2.5 second reverb sound at the beginning. Regardless, the song is as good as it ever was. 5/5

02 – Things We Lost In The Fire. We are generally fans of songs with longer titles, as we think it shows some creativity, as long as it doesn’t get to Fall Out Boy levels of ridiculous. Anyway, notes about this song: It sounds like Gotye, the title becomes a very clumsy hook, it has a nice ‘ooooooh-ooh’ in it, and a very good lyric of  ‘we were born with nothing / and we sure as hell have nothing now’. 4/5

03 – Bad Blood. Oh, the title track. As with our love for long song titles, we also love when albums aren’t named after a track but after something else. Anyway, it’s a shame that this is the title track, as it’s not very good. It’s perhaps even unenjoyable. It sounds like it has reggae/ska influences, with its use of keyboards, and the introduction actually reminds us of The Ordinary Boys as Dan Smith sounds like Preston. 3/5

04 – Overjoyed. Very, very promising start, with beautiful vocals. Unfortunately goes to shit. The first ballad of the album. 3/5

05 – These Streets. Contains a very annoying xylophone sound, which for some reason is repeated through the song, almost used as a refrain. Indeed, this sound reminds us of early polyphonic ringtones. Overlooking this, then, and the chorus of this song is a lot stronger than the verse. It’s Pompeii-like, contains nice layering of vocals, and some of the vocal highlights are ‘waaaa-aaaant them’ and ‘de-feeeee-at’. Lyrically, it is strong, including, ‘These streets are yours, you can keep them’, ‘We have paved these streets with moments of defeat’, ‘we have stained these walls / with our mistakes and flaws’ and ‘But even if we won’t admit it to ourselves’. As far as we’re concerned, the song is about the way streets can be inherently connected to memories, perhaps of someone you have broken up with, and thus usage of  ‘all that’s left behind / is a shadow on my mind’ becomes beautifully used. Dan Smith is an amazing song writer, no doubt about that.  4/5

06. The Weight Of Living (Part II). Not quite sure why a Part II was needed. We associate Part IIs either with annoying songs (Alicia Key’s Empire State Of Mind and Emeli Sandé’s Read All About It come to mind) or with songs which have been massively changed (Love The Way You Lie, Part I being much more angry: mainly Eminem with a little Rihanna; part II being much more of a ballad/love song: mainly Rihanna and a little Eminem). This song fits into neither of those camps. Part I is the ‘hidden track’ (more on that later), and Part II is definitely more cheery than Part I, but Part I isn’t exactly uncheery, least ways, not sonically. It’s very instant and has lots of background ‘ooh’s and ‘ba-ba’s, thus keeping us relatively happy. 4/5

07. Icarus. Nice ooooohs in background. Like almost every song on the album, then(!) ‘Flaaa-aaaames’ is nicely pronounced. The chorus isn’t great. Bonus points for being based on Greek mythology. Thus, along with ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’, these songs make up a trilogy of songs based around ancient happenings/stories. It’s nice when themes like this are explored via the medium of popular music. Next up: Britney sings about the Egyptians. 4/5

08. Oblivion. It’s never going to be our favourite song named ‘Oblivion’, as that honour falls to Patrick Wolf (featuring the wonderful Tilda Swinton as ‘The Voice of Hope‘). It’s another ballad, but this one is executed much better than ‘Overjoyed’. Dan Smith asks ‘Are you going to age with grace?’ and whilst it seems like a rhetorical question, it seems clear that this is a love song, written to one who is unattainable. The lyric ‘Are you going to age without mistakes?’ is also all kinds of amazing. Beautiful, as the strings come in for the last thirty seconds of the song to bid a tearful goodbye. 5/5

09. Flaws. One of the best on the album. ‘Flaws’ comes up as a running theme of the album, being mentioned explicitly in the lyrics to ‘These Streets’ and implicitly seen on other songs such as ‘Oblivion’. ‘Flaws’ perhaps overuses synths, and hence may not be for everyone, although the album is very synthy generally. The chorus is euphoric, ‘You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeves / and I have always buried them deep beneath the ground’. Meanwhile, using the word ‘exhumed’ in a song gets brownie points, whilst the declaration that ‘We’ll see that we need them to be who we are / Without them we’d be doomed’ is very cheering. 4.5/5

10. Daniel In The Den. The synths in this remind us of Keane’s first album, and that’s not a good thing. ‘For every King that died, they would crown another’ is quite a witty lyric. The chorus lines of  ‘Felled in the night, by the ones you think they love’ is repeated far too many times, and we just generally don’t like this song. It does have an amazing title though!!! 3/5

11. Laura Palmer. The ‘echo’ effect on the vocals gets really grating by this point of the album. It is just over-used far too much. ‘The night was all you had’ is a nice lyric. The chorus is too big/loud/euphoric for the song; it comes out of nowhere and just feels ill-fitting. Anyway, we don’t really like either the verses or the chorus of this one. 2/5

12. Get Home. One of the best on the album. 5/5

“Hidden” Track. The Weight of Living (Part I) Firstly, one gripe. It’s not ‘hidden’ enough for a hidden track! It comes on about 5 seconds after ‘Get Home’ finishes. Anyway, on to the actual content of the song. We like this song. It has a pretty epic ‘uh-uh-uh-uh uh-uh-uh-oh’. It is beautiful, a truly great way to end the album. We really really like the use of the albatross metaphor in the lyrics (‘let it go … shoot it down’), partly because it reminds us of Patrick Wolf’s Teignmouth, where he sings ‘So when the birds fly South / Reach up and hold their tails’. It has an amazing outtro ‘oooh’ too. 5/5

Overall opinion: We were disappointed with the quality of some of the tracks. The album definitely drags if you try and listen to it all in one sitting. It has some very obvious highlights (Pompeii, Flaws, Get Home, Weight of Living Part I, Oblivion and These Streets) but the rest of the album is a bit too ‘meh’ for us. There are parts we actively dislike. More encouragingly, every song has at least one element which we can appreciate. Dan Smith has not only written the whole album himself, but also co-produced the whole thing, which is a pretty amazing feat. The album would benefit from a recognised producer tightening up the whole thing a little. We’re thinking Stuart Price, as he did pretty amazing things to Frankmusik’s debut album, Complete Me. However, were this to happen, the album would lose some of it’s better flashes of creativity. It would also lose its ‘indie credibility’ which has presumably been a big selling-point, despite the fact that underneath it all, Bastille is a pop band, Dan Smith is definitely a pop writer, and ‘Bad Blood’ is a pop album. We like the album as it is, but we definitely don’t love it as it is. 4/5.


7 thoughts on “Album Review: Bastille – Bad Blood

  1. Pingback: Song Of The Week | popfools

  2. Just had to reply because this review comes up when googling for Bad Blood and annoying, but you got it all wrong. The song Bad Blood is purely annoying in that there is this off beat almost accidental bloop, bloop, bloop sound over the track that destroys the song to the point that hearing it makes one quite agitated. For example listen and it start at 55 seconds and starts and stops throughout the song. Not on a beat at all and louder than the other tracks. Grrrr!!!!!!!!!!

    • THANK YOU FOR VERIFYING I’M SANE. I can’t find anything on the web that explains the reason for that damn noise. Initially I thought maybe it was a anti-piracy measure that accidentally got mixed in the track but I still hear it six months later on the version they play on the radio. Super annoying.

    • Like the other guy, thank you for helping me feel sane! I was hoping someone else heard that damn noise! I might otherwise like the song, but all I can hear is that damn bloop sound. I even sit thee trying to anticipate when it will happen next, and I can’t get it. It’s completely random and drives me insane!

  3. Can I just say that the genre is ALTERNATIVE, Dan Smith writes alt rock with a bit of a poppy synth vibe, so the band is classified as Alternative. It’s this way on ITunes and Wikipedia. Your review was good, but as a stormer I gotta defend my boys and say that.

    • I don’t know what a stormer is, but yes I suppose you are right. By very definition Pompeii was certainly “pop” territory but the rest of the album certainly doesn’t sound like it was made to be a pop record. I like to review all kinds of music on the blog, not just typical pop. 🙂

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