Fortunately, it's a feat Bastille have fully achieved on Bad Blood. The out-of-the-blue chart success of current single 'Pompeii' proves their knack to pen a bouncy pop number without the services of Guetta and co - and doing it with aptitude and panache. The same qualities reside in ska-flecked 'Bad Blood', the harp-pinging 'Things We Lost In the Fire' and the glitchy synths of 'Flaws'.
Unsurprisingly, love plays a crucial role throughout the collection. Haunting ballad 'Overjoyed' hears singer Dan Smith hoping to reason with a loved one over a soul-warming piano line, while 'Oblivion' is awash with quivering strings as he worries about his lover's potential blackout - the result a poetic dialogue that's both unassuming and crucially self-aware.
Longtime fans will notice the added flourishes of strings and choirs on early tracks 'Icarus' and 'Laura Palmer'. The former becomes evermore epic in its execution, while the latter remains a heart-pulsing anthem destined for a single re-release. Some might criticise the collection for being too polished for a debut set, but with addictive melodies, humble lyrics and a cohesive sound, Bastille are a band where the buzz words couldn't be truer.
The cover of Bad Blood with its low-angle road-at-night picture and faux-cinema-poster look reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Peek inside the CD booklet and you can see that this is no accident: Smith is wearing a Lost Highway T Shirt in two pictures. The Lynch connection doesn’t end there either: the penultimate track ‘Laura Palmer’ is a well-crafted elegy to Twin Peaks' most famous corpse. What is slightly baffling is that a director as fiercely weird and unconventional as David Lynch seems to have had a major role in inspiring such a conventional and straightforward record (12 songs in 44 minutes, two ballads, big choruses, boxes ticked).
You only have to dig around a little online to see that Smith is capable of thinking outside the box far more than is displayed to us on Bad Blood: a far superior version of the highlight song ‘Flaws’ recorded with percussion and electronics replaced by orchestral accompaniment and numerous cover versions where Smith twists and mashes other people’s songs into new and strange shapes show a level of creativity and ingenuity beyond the rather staid imagination on display here.
There is, nonetheless, a lot to love about Bad Blood. Fans of the big pop chorus and powerful male lead vocal should snap this up. There is also a sense of being rather underwhelmed: over half of the songs on the record were available in one form or another previously and the ones that are new sound very similar. That said, Dan Smith has released more properly catchy songs on this one record than some bands manage in a lifetime and, if he manages to break the shackles a little, his future Bastille releases should be essential listening.
19.04.13 Köln, Luxor
21.04.13 Berlin, Festsaal Kreuzberg
22.04.13 München, Strom