Bastille - All This Bad Blood Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 12.03.2013
One of 2013's hottest new arrivals offer a deluxe edition of their debut album, Bad Blood. How does it stack up? Check out our full review!
A little over a year ago Bastille topped the bill at the most local of music festivals to myself, the Gloucester Underground festival in front a few hundred people with the likes of Peace, Canterbury and Lower Than Atlantis also occupying high positions on the line up. Prior to the band's headlining shot I had the pleasure of meeting vocalist Dan Smith and bassist Will Farquarson and the only shared mere minutes of their time, and no point did either mention any plans for becoming one of the UK's most successful bands in 2013. On the contrary, their goals for the next few years were things like getting their name out there, playing as many shows as possible and building a reputation as a live band. They seemed like they genuinely enjoyed touring and genuinely enjoyed making music. Fast forward to February of this year and their single “Pompeii” is topping charts on a global scale. Their debut album Bad Blood was released in the UK in March and went straight to number one off the back of the success of “Pompeii” and has maintained a high position in the charts ever since. Bastille was one of the must-see bands at many European festivals this year and the release of the record in the United States in September saw the band narrowly miss out on the Billboard Top 10. This brings us to All This Bad Blood, a reissue of the band's debut with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material tacked on. But is it simply a way of capitalizing on their success just in time for Christmas or does the bonus disc offer the same anthemic singles as the first did?
Bastille - All This Bad Blood
Vocals/percussion – Dan Smith
Keyboards/percussion – Kyle Simmons
Bass – Will Farquarson
Drums – Chris Wood
Track listing; Disc One – Bad Blood:
2. Things We Lost in the Fire
3. Bad Blood
5. These Streets
6. Weight of Living, Pt. II
10. Daniel in the Dean
11. Laura Palmer
12. Get Home Disc Two – Other People's Heartache:
2. The Silence
3. Haunt [Demo]
4. Weight of Living, Pt. I
6. Durban Skies
7. Laughter Lines
8. Previously On Other People's Heartache
9. Of the Night
10. The Draw
11. What Would You Do?
13. Tuning Out Running time: 01:18:26
The quick and easy answer to the question posed in my opening paragraph is a simple “yes,” - this “special edition” version of Bad Blood is purely taking advantage of the legions of new-found fans after what has been an incredible 2013 for the band. Indeed long-time fans of the band will find nothing new here as the vast majority of the material was already available on various Eps and mixed tapes released over the past couple of years. But that does not mean to say the material is without merit and there's nothing wrong with packaging all that material into one bundle just in time for the busiest shopping period of the year.
The first single from the bonus disc (titled Other People's Heartache), is “Of the Night,” a mash up of Corona's “Rhythm of the Night” and Snap!'s “Rhythm is a Dancer.” For those not familiar, those are two absolute 90s dance classics that have been sampled or covered by probably hundreds of artists over the last twenty years. What you expect to be a cheesy and grating dancefloor-filler is turned completely on its head into a brooding and sombre stroke of genius. It's sounds like a terrible idea on paper, but Bastille have regularly gone against the grain. To avoid being pigeon-holed as either a pop or an indie act, the band produced mix-tapes of predominantly R&B and hip-hop covers until honing their own sound and the likes of “Pompeii” was what resulted. And they've struck gold once again with “Of the Night” as it begins to scale charts across the world. It's another daring move and it pays off.
Bastille - “Of the Night”
Similarly baffling is their band's cover of City High's “What Would You Do.” Remember that? Here the London-based quartet take an anthemic one-hit-wonder that dealt with serious themes and make it totally contemporary. It's a haunting cover and almost succeeds in delivering the message of the song better than the original did. It does feel strangely out of place considering the source material, but it goes to show that this is a fearless group willing to take a stab at just about anything regardless of how outrageous it seems.
Elsewhere on this special edition offering is more of what fans will have come to expect. Many of the tracks here could've been included on Bad Blood but in most cases there's good reason they didn't. There are, however, a number of stand out moments including “The Silence.” It's a frantic four-minute offering with a thumping chorus as big as any you'll find on the band's debut. Some of the record's brighter moments are ironically the songs that feature a darker tone; “The Draw,” “Skulls” and “Durban Skies” show a gloomier side to the band and strategically placed on the album to keep the tempo from stagnating. “The Draw” in particular is fierce, vocalist Dan Smith sounding as emotionally raw here as ever before. It's a powerful track that may have seemed out of place on Bad Blood, which I guess is why these kinds of releases are a good thing.
Unfortunately not every track is a winner - “Weight of Living, Pt. I” is complete and utter filler and is solely there to boost track numbers – it's a demo; the full and complete version can be found on the main disc. Similarly, there's an interlude “Previously On Other People's Heartbreak,” it's reflective of the band's success, featuring clips from singles but it serves no purpose on bonus disc of content featuring demos, covers and B-sides. Those few minor quibbles aside, Other People's Heartache is more of the same – massive chorus, soaring vocals, intricate percussion and a sense of fun most modern indie bands couldn't capture in their wildest dreams.
Bastille - “Things We Lost in the Fire”
And as good as this bonus disc of content is, when you stand it side-by-side with the original Bad Blood release it just doesn't match up. The years of experimenting with different styles of recording and producing and the flirtation with so many different genres has lead Bastille to the sound that they make entirely their own on Bad Blood. The original record has six singles to date but any of the twelve tracks have chart-topping potential and its clear to see why this is a band that has attracted some of the biggest crowds on the festival circuit this summer. Bastille struck gold with “Pompeii” but they have the material behind them to ensure their success is not fleeting. It is with great ease that the bands moves from near riot-inducing “Pompeii” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” to the hungover melancholy of “Bad Blood” and “Overjoyed.” At no point does the album tale off, with “Weight of Living, Pt. II” and “Icarus” both album highlights, managing to stand out amongst the highest calibre of 2013's indie pop. At just over 40-minutes the record doesn't get a chance to outstay its welcome and with variety in tempo the album doesn't even feel half that long.
Other People's Heartache acts as a nice companion piece to Bad Blood and although it doesn't offer anything brand new from the band, it does encompass their brief history into one easily digestible package. If anything else, it shows that the band is full of ideas and that can only mean good things for the future prospects of a group that played their first gig together just two years ago. It's worth picking up All This Bad Blood for “Of the Night” and “What Would You Do” alone, but the real value for your money is in Bad Blood, one of the best debut albums of the year, one of the best British albums of the year and probably one of the best albums of the year period.
The 411: All This Bad Blood is undeniably a release designed to capitalise on the band's sudden rise to prominence in 2013 but it is an essential purchase for fans who have only discovered the band post-"Pompeii," which is probably the majority of them. This release perfectly highlights Bastille's versatility, showing them at their best when belting out massive choruses that have filled dancefloors and huge outdoor arenas alike all year long. "Of the Night" and "What Would You Do" stand out amongst the additional content but other tracks such as "The Silence" and "The Draw" more than hold their own. If you're completely new to Bastille, the band's debut is where you need to start off, and if you can muster the inner-strength to take that off of repeat, then you need to delve as deep as you can into the imagination of Bastille as showcased in Other People's Heartache. The feel-good record of 2013.