While Bastille certainly know how to string together a pleasing ditty, Bad Blood, on the whole, has a kind of made-for-TV quality that’s hard to shake. There’s something to be said for a good starting point — “Pompeii”, the band’s much-hyped earworm that’s begging to be overplayed on FM radio, is the first track on the album — but there’s a fair share of Mumfording here. If that other British crew gave up their banjos for a couple of synths, they would end up sounding like Bastille. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this too-many-feelings, heart-on-your-sleeve approach; it’s just that, played out over the course of an entire album (or on the airwaves, over the course of several years), the whole thing starts to feel a bit contrived.
Take, for instance, the boys’ preoccupation with destruction. Their lead single is, after all, called “Pompeii”, and other tracks from the group’s debut album seem to be of a similar mind (e.g., “Things We Lost In The Fire”, “Icarus”). Despite the catastrophic titles, these songs actually seem to contain a kind of phoenix-like (or perhaps Mumford-like) optimism, a youthful refusal to accept despair as an option, even in the fiery face of things like ash and molten lava. It’s totally fair to find this pleasant — inspiring, even. But in the end, this preoccupation doesn’t feel genuine, a weak sales pitch.
Bad Blood isn’t a total loss. Tracks like “Get Home” earn points for breaking from form. “This is just another night, and we’ve had many of them,” vocalist/band mastermind Dan Smith sings, before asking, bewildered, how he’s going to get himself back home. If he’s ever able to answer this question himself, he’ll be ready to take the potential shown in Bad Blood and further craft his own sound and voice.
Essential Tracks: “Pompeii”, “Things We Lost In The Fire”, and “Get Home”