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Album Review: Bastille- Bad Blood

4 min read

Bastille has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame since forming in 2010 in London. The band has supported acts such as Emeli Sande and Muse, and is a headliner at the 2013 iTunes Festival.

The band’s debut album, Bad Blood, begins with the hit single and strong opener Pompeii. Admittedly, the absurd ‘eh oh eh oh eh oh’ hook reminds me of Slice of Heaven and Hooked on a Feeling. Fortunately, the spectacular ‘ohhhhhhh’ backing vocals during the last line of the chorus ‘Oh I’m gonna be an optimist about this’ lift the chorus and show why Pompeii performed so well as the band’s fourth single off Bad Blood.

bastilleBadBloodThings We Lost in the Fire has tribal drums, strings being plucked and harmony vocals reminiscent of Rio-era Duran Duran. The ‘in the fire, fire, fire’ chorus is catchy. However, the song is too evocative of songs like Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us and countless other songs with the same chord progression.

The title track, Bad Blood, also feels derivative. The synth bass reminds listeners of Queen’s Body Language. The tribal, falsetto, deepened and processed background vocals sound like rejects from The Presets’ 2008 Apocalypso album. Bad Blood also marks the band’s obsession with songs in E or F minor. This poses a problem later on in the album, as the songs start sounding the same.

The drum-machine-heavy, synth-oriented Overjoyed sounds like an updated Time After Time, apart from the piano and the throbbing bass towards the end that would not sound out of place on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

The uptempo and exotic These Streets, with its clicks and xylophone riffs, would be a good addition to background music at a tropical bar. It is hard not to gently sway from side to side to the beat.

Weight of Living Part 1 has more throbbing Dark Side of the Moon bass, but its chorus is even more danceable than the previous track. It is evocative of the very best of Duran Duran’s dancefloor tracks such as Girls on Film and Girl Panic. This is a single-worthy track.

The disco-inflected Icarus is a letdown. A song with such a title is expected to conjure images of light and supernatural epic-ness. Instead, the lyrics are about the generic topic of a person taking a self-destructive path through life, and lines such as ‘Icarus is flying too close to the sun’ are too literal to be taken seriously.

Oblivion is another piano ballad that plays it safe in terms of words and melody, but the strings and spectacular, multilayered vocal harmonies add a poignancy that is rarely found elsewhere on the rest of the album.

More Presets comparisons are inevitable when listeners hear Flaws. Problems regarding the album’s sequencing become apparent. The past four songs are in very similar keys, so hearing each song after the other makes this section of the album musically monotonous.

Finally, things change up on Daniel in the Den, which is clearly in a different key to the previous few tracks. The waltz-like rhythm, piano accompaniment and background vocals give a sense of euphoria at the end of a party where everyone is drunkenly waltzing together. There is another catchy chorus in ‘felt in the night, but the ones you think you love, they will come for you’.

Unfortunately, there are more excessive Duran Duran homages and songs in F minor in Laura Palmer. The chorus of ‘this is your heart, can you feel it? Pumps through your veins, can you feel it?’ is unremarkable. It’s surprising that this was a single after the success of Pompeii.

The trippy Get Home starts with an acapella version of the memorable chorus ‘how am I gonna get myself back home, I-I-I-I’. The verses go through louds and softs, so they actually have some variety.

Weight of Living Part 2 has sequenced vocal parts that sound like the intro to Fleetwood Mac’s Eyes of the World, as well as tribal beats (again?) and clap sticks. However, it is not quite as memorable as Weight of Living Part I and thus is not a great album closer, if it weren’t for the bonus tracks.

The first bonus track, The Silence, is an absolute hurricane with its pulsating rhythm and frenetic drums. Another lost catchy chorus can be found here in ‘it is not enough to be dumbstruck, can you feel the silence?.

The wacky synths and throbbing bass of Laughter Lines, the other bonus track, sound like something from the TV series The Twilight Zone or the Thriller music video. The track even sounds romantic with its beautifully arranged, Lana-Del-Rey-esque string arrangement. This, combined with the lyrics describing lovers growing old together and seeing each others’ laughter lines, make this track the emotional highlight of the entire album, bonus tracks included.

Bastille has tried its best to record a cohesive body of work. The band have clearly been inspired by The Presets and Duran Duran. However, it is arguable that Bastille does not bring too many new ideas to the table. Too many tracks on Bad Blood follow the same old first verse-chorus-second verse-chorus-structure, and songs in similar keys are sequenced too close together. The result is that the album is musically repetitive even halfway through. The bonus tracks are better than many of the album tracks and should have been included on Bad Blood.

Buy ‘Bastille – Bad Blood’ from Amazon

1 thought on “Album Review: Bastille- Bad Blood

  1. It seems like your judging this album solely on its attributes in music theory, which seems unreasonable.
    Maybe 0.5% of the population could even identify a song in “E of F minor”. To me this a poor gauge of what makes good music… especially for those of us who didn’t major in music theory.

    You say that Bastille’s album all sounds the same…. but the same thing could be said about classical composers, any of the Beatle’s albums, Linkin Park’s Meteora or Green Day’s American Idiot . An artist sounds like themselves… how is that bad? Just because your not into a particular sound, or lack the ability to appreciate the subtlety of it doesn’t make it a bad album, it makes it one that is simply not your taste.

    “However, it is arguable that Bastille does not bring too many new ideas to the table”

    Listen to the top 100 on ITunes. do you hear ANYTHING that sounds remotely like Bastille? Please prove that they aren’t unique….because it sounds like you’d rather be listening to Miley Cyrus “ladeda” … or maybe Katie Perry ripping off lyrics from Survivor and Queen. (See: Roar).

    I personally enjoyed the album because the the lyrics were so literate. Please, give me lyrics about history and mythology with modern twist any day!… If I hear another song about strippers, being rich, or big butts I will become homicidal.

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