A really gratifying debut from south Londoner Dan Smith and company.
Matthew Horton 2013-02-19
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. Bastille might not be the obvious antidote, but they offer a compelling alternative.
Neither explicitly synth-led nor crunchy with guitars, Smith and the band that adds flesh to the bones he wrought himself create something that's clearly pop but evades firm categorisation beyond that. It could stand apart.
Smith avoids vocal effects almost entirely, the one concession some warm Sparky's Magic Piano synthetic harmonies on leaving the club/leaving your senses closer Get Home.
Otherwise he's open and boyish, a gauche voice with traces of Chris Martin's glottal stops and Alt-J singer Joe Newman's tics and quirks. And left to his own devices, he has the space to deliver his stories.
Classical allusion separates Bastille from the crowd, whether Smith is painting a love story against the background of volcanic disaster in the tremendous Pompeii or admonishing a fast-liver on the softly funky Icarus.
He likes his metaphors, exploiting Twin Peaks for the tale of a lost soul on Laura Palmer and begging estranged friends to "let it dry" as Bad Blood threatens to drown them. But these words would mean little without the tunes to sustain them.
That's where Smith and Bastille really deliver, ranging earworm choruses across the album. There's something 80s about the heart-swelling melodies of Oblivion and the glorious Weight of Living, Pt. II, but only because they evoke a-ha and Tears For Fears in their determination to be both catchy and muscular.
And maybe that's the answer to all those woes. Bad Blood is a really gratifying debut that feels like a solution.