Review Summary: Sing it out loud, etc
There’s little point in mulling over the topic of 'authenticity' in pop music since the discussion has all but become a cliché, but there is something curiously grounded about Bad Blood
which sets it apart from the crowd. Bastille’s music is unlikely to cause any musical revolutions; it’s based almost exclusively around big pop hooks, with simple song structures and clean production. Their acceleration to the top- bagging a #2 spot in the singles charts before their debut even being released- is something normally associated with fabricated pop acts and stereotypically greedy major record labels. And yet there is something about Bastille’s restrained instrumentation, in avoiding the OTT-extravagance of their peers, which makes the music sound surprisingly down to earth and human. Dan Smith’s vocals are probably at centre of it more than anything else; they’re grand and bold, but evoke a calm wisdom and modesty.
But really, this is catchy pop at heart. Huge, uplifting choruses are abound, with “Pompeii”, “Daniel In The Den” and “Laura Palmer” providing the best cuts. Group vocals are prominent throughout and Dan Smith’s voice in the lead perfectly suits this style, but it also handles the quieter moments well too. It rises from the weary “Get Home” and drives forward “Things We Lost In The Fire” above its soft instrumentation. Not that the instrumentation is ever particularly thick. There are gentle strings here, delicate piano notes there and creeping guitars throughout; but if anything it’s the percussion which pulls the strings more than any of the other instruments. In most songs beefy live drums provide the heart of the music, reminiscent of Florence & the Machine’s “Drumming Song”; on “Icarus” they fuel the energy of the tribal-like rhythm. Elsewhere, electronic beats tone down the mood for the sake of some of the softer tracks, such as on “Oblivion” or even the soothing dubstep of “Overjoyed”.
Although Bad Blood
is strongly hook based and certainly designed for accessible consumption, there is enough subtle experimentation for songs to stand on their own merits. There’s the immense “Pompeii”, the lively of “Icarus”, the serene “Overjoyed” and the more melancholic likes of “Oblivion”. Bastille may not bring much particularly new, but with Bad Blood
they have taken a range of ideas and, in making them their own, have provided a hugely gratifying slice of rock-tinged pop which manages to be interesting and down to earth without detracting from the main goal of its immense hooks.