Release Date: Mar 4, 2013
Record label: Virgin
Bastille purveys in what might be best described as “apocalyptic pop”. Though Bad Blood, the band’s major label debut, operates within the safe realms of verse-chorus structure, everything is amped up to 11, creating a sense of urgency that makes what could have been a collection of ordinary electronic indie pop sound like a battle cry for the end times. Booming male choirs, string effects, echoey pianos, allusions to Greek mythology and the Bible—Bastille brings out all the artillery on Bad Blood, and the result is nothing less than earth-shattering.
So, to business. The defendant, Dan Smith of Bastille, sits before us. Guilty or not guilty? Let us don our wigs and pass judgement. As you’ve just witnessed, it doesn’t take long for a metaphor to become tiresome. It’s a rule that Dan Smith, singer, producer, and sole songwriter of Bastille ….
If not yet inescapable, Bastille's angsty indie pop has already begun popping up in an unlikely array of settings (Emeli Sandé support slots, Made in Chelsea, YouTube Terrence Malick tributes – that last the work of film buff frontman, Dan Smith). Delusions of cultdom still surface on their debut (most obviously on the Twin Peaks-referencing Sarah Palmer) but overall, it is a hooky, unmistakably populist affair. Its repertoire of tricks – piano and falsetto sob-rock, yodel-along backing vocals, hands-in-the-air breakdowns – is entirely predictable, but generally redeemed by strong, surging melodies.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Bastille is not a ‘typical DiS Band’. It’s hard initially to put your finger on why: Dan Smith (for he effectively is Bastille) ticks a lot of boxes with his soaring and powerful voice, his intelligent arrangements and his acute ear for the dynamics of a perfect pop/rock song. There is an awful lot to love about Bad Blood, the debut Bastille record.
Bastille want everyone to like them. They want Arcade Fire fans who love a cliff-edge epic to like them (YouTube hit ‘Pompeii’). They want the Coldplay mass-emotional armies to like them (‘Overjoyed’). They even seem to want people after a piano version of Ed Sheeran to like them (‘Daniel In The Den’).
There's nothing wrong with having an anthem on a record. A couple, even. But the debut synth-pop-rock album by British four-piece Bastille clobbers you with an unrelenting barrage of them. (Note to the band: your Summer Olympics were last year.) The record starts strong with Pompeii - a huge hit in the UK, where the album's been out since March.
With a sold-out tour ahead, and the single Pompeii straight on to this week's charts at No 2, everything seems set fair for Dan Smith, the creative heart of Bastille. By bolting on the merest hint of dance beats to his absolutely conventional, mildly melancholic piano ballads (descending chord sequences, the internationally recognised signifier of mild melancholy, abound), he has spruced up the formula that has dominated mainstream pop-rock for more than a decade. That said, it's hard to work out why these songs have made a greater connection than those of a hundred like-minded songwriters.
While Bastille certainly know how to string together a pleasing ditty, Bad Blood, on the whole, has a kind of made-for-TV quality that’s hard to shake. There’s something to be said for a good starting point — “Pompeii”, the band’s much-hyped earworm that’s begging to be overplayed on FM radio, is the first track on the album — but there’s a fair share of Mumfording here. If that other British crew gave up their banjos for a couple of synths, they would end up sounding like Bastille.
A really gratifying debut from south Londoner Dan Smith and company. Matthew Horton 2013 From one-man band to frontman and creative fulcrum, Dan Smith has taken his time getting the Bastille debut together. It's been a good couple of years since tracks from Bad Blood started a buzz, but he may have chosen his moment well. Much has been made of the dispiriting state of today’s charts – apparently a swamp of Auto-Tuned vocals and joyless EDM synths, crying out for the salvation of a guitar or two.
Hailing from South London and comprising of four members, Bastille have been growing taller and wider since their fairly humble beginnings, where up until last year only one member, singer-songwriter Dan Smith, was at the helm. But since then they have expanded both as a band, but also as a new wave of fresh music that has been splashing the shores of the UK’s sound ship.Their latest release comes in the form of ‘Bad Blood’, a track that soars and glides, dips and swoops, a real musical treat. It has a sound that digs up bands such as White Lies, a dark and brooding track that demands more in depth thought into the lyrics and meaning.