Dan Smith’s ambition was never to be a pop star. The lead singer of and driving force behind Bastille has gone on record saying that he always wanted to go into movies. ‘Other People’s Heartache’ is where he combines his passion for film with his music, weaves intriguing remixes and rethought versions of old songs, and just generally has a lot of fun. Part 2 builds on Part 1, with Dan Smith getting even more ingenious with his connections between film and music and adventurous with his production.
The new production team F*U*G*Z, formed by Smith and rapper F. Stokes must take a lot of credit for this album, and F*U*G*Z is accordingly given a number of ‘ft.’ acknowledgements. The team announces itself immediately (after Bastille have updated us with a TV-style ‘previously on Other People’s Heartache’ section with clips of each track from the last album and had a boys’ choir sing the chorus of Bastille’s song ‘Icarus’ of course!) in ‘Killer’ with some slick production; while it does draw attention to itself somewhat, it works well, instantly creating the atmosphere that the album gives off throughout – one of everything happening everywhere at the same time. The song, a cover of Seal’s ‘Killer’, is so eventful it’s ridiculous, with a sample from George Michael’s song of the same name, Liam Neeson promising “I will find you, and I will-” and downbeat electronic wizardry all over the place. And don’t worry, Smith’s tongue remains firmly in his cheek, having Marty McFly announce at the end “Guess you guys weren’t ready for that. But your kids are gonna love it.”
Dan Smith’s humour is a huge part of the album, and it is evident throughout. In the cover of ‘No Scrub’ by TLC mixed with The xx’s ‘Intro’ and filled with excerpts from Psycho, Smith implicitly accuses Norman of being a ‘scrub’ because he ‘lives with his momma’. The track ‘Thinkin’ Ahead’, a cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinking About You’, opens with a reference to a rather different Frank in Donnie Darko’s “a storm is coming Frank says” speech. ‘Sweet Pompeii’, mostly a soulful cover of Calvin Harris’ ‘Sweet Nothing’, almost seems like a practical joke on the listener as we go from the verse to a clip of Bernie Sanders talking about the economy to a hilariously unexpected sample of the exact beat break from Harris’ version. Add to that an N-Trance cover and some more humorously appropriate film excerpts and you have a joyfully playful analysis of popular culture and media.
Despite all this, the album does flirt with sincerity at times. The wonderful Kate Tempest produces a beat poem on ‘Forever Ever’ which combines brilliantly with the cover of Bastille’s single ‘Bad Blood’ Dan Smith enlists the help of Gab Aplin’s spine-tingling voice to produce a beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, opening with Gene Wilder’s excellent Willy Wonka declaring ‘we are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams’ and littered with moments from The Corrs’ ‘Dreams’ to complete the theme. Ella, one of 2013’s most exciting prospects, assists on a goose bump-inducing rendition of Tina Turner’s ‘Private Dancer’ which explodes into life when she starts belting N-Trance’s ‘Set You Free’ and the album closes with a chilling rendition of ‘Holy Night’, and Dan Smith definitely has the vocal pedigree to pull off the hymn. It’s blended cunningly with clips from ‘Home Alone’ including the band’s parting message: “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal, and a Happy New Year!”
The band are giving this album away for free, just as they did Part 1, on www.otherpeoplesheartache.com because, as far as we can see, they’ve only made it because they thought it’d be fun, and they want you to hear it. Much as we all wish Bastille would hurry up and release a ‘proper’ album already, it’s so refreshing seeing artists creating for the sake of creating, and obviously loving every second of it.