From the opening seconds of ‘Pompeii’, which feature atmospheric chanting, to the last pleading notes of ‘Get Home’, Bad Blood is a masterpiece of epic proportions. It’s been a long time coming, and at times it seemed it might never arrive, but Bastille’s debut is emphatically worth the wait. While many albums attempt to present one coherent picture, telling the same story from start to finish, Dan Smith has produced what sounds more like a book of short stories, a series of snapshots from different narratives and ideas, moving swiftly between the many themes and ideas swirling around in his head and changing setting so rapidly that the minute you’ve got a hold on the meaning of one song, you’re thinking about the next one.
The lyrics are exquisite, as fans of the band will already be aware, the material on Bad Blood being largely familiar to any followers of Bastille. But it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard “Your hands protect the flames/From the wild winds around you” and other such gems from album highlight ‘Icarus’, a song that’s been around for a full year and a half. It will still tug on your heart strings, describing but not judging the self-destructive life of someone living every day as if it might be his last (“Icarus is flying too close to the sun/
Icarus’ life has only just begun”). As for some of the previously unreleased tracks, it surely won’t be long before festival and tour crowds alike are singing “Felled in the night by the ones you think you love/They will come for you” on the chorus of biblically-inspired ‘Daniel In The Den’, a song about dreaming and unreality. References and allusion are common throughout, with ‘Pompeii’ transporting the listener to the devastation of the Roman city destroyed by a volcanic eruption almost 2000 years ago, and ‘Laura Palmer’ calling on the David Lynch cult TV drama Twin Peaks.
The lyrics are mostly simple – “When all of your flaws and all of my flaws are laid out one by one” – but powerful, and it’s a heartless person indeed who feels nothing as Dan Smith unashamedly announces “There’s a hole in my soul/I can’t fill it, I can’t fill it/There’s a hole in my soul/Can you fill it, can you fill it?” on ‘Flaws’. The same can be said for the music. Despite Smith’s prowess as a producer, as seen on his Other People’s Heartache mixtapes, he resists the urge to bury the album in production, instead achieving a simple, heartfelt effect from start to finish. This is never more evident than in ‘Oblivion’, a song that Google tells me was used in an episode of Vampire Diaries (OK fine, I heard it watching the show), which features little more than a piano and Dan Smith sounding for all the world like he’s standing in a desert staring at the night sky as he mournfully proclaims, “When oblivion is calling out your name/You always take it further than I ever can”.
The album is so packed with excellent songs that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite, and mine’s been oscillating wildly since I first heard it. Currently it’s ‘Icarus’, but we probably shouldn’t go into why “Drinking from a paper cup/You won’t remember this” speaks to me. Instead, listen to it yourself, pick your own, and love it forever.