BastilleNew Album Review :: Bastille :: Bad Blood

It seems appropriate that the album cover to the new album Bad Blood, from Bastille, is done up in the style of a movie poster as the album itself plays out like a dramatic unfolding of a film script, passion and emotion building and fading, the ebb and flow of plot told in song, with a musical accompaniment that strikes me as soundtrack, as well as album. Sometimes though, the album feels like 12 separate films collected together, as each song has its own rise and fall to them, each chorus an action type of anthem, and every song gifted with moments of poetic quiet vulnerability that turns back around into a climatic end and fade into where the credits would lie. Perhaps this is a film festival in album form? As a movie enthusiast, as well as a music obsessive, that is more than fine to me.

Reviews I have read seem to affix the album as “apocalyptic pop” and make references to the urgency of both sound and story, and there are times I hear it, too. Both parts of Weight of Living (part 1 a bonus track) certainly speak to the “weight” of modern life, expanding on the current YOLO (“you only live once“) pop battle cry that permeates much of the current fare and giving it a more literate, and again I have to say, cinematic, presentation. I feel the depth below the pop sensibilities in the same way I did when listening to Passion Pit’s Gossamer, and Muse’s album The Resistance, the latter another very film-feeling offering.

I feel a loneliness in many of these songs, an isolation, which may add to the “end of the world” feel that others have noted. To me, though, it is more personal than that, more insular than world-reaching, at times the songs feel so emotionally vulnerable that it seems as if the song is being sung to the listener alone (the use of I/You lyrically helps with this, especially in songs like Oblivion and Flaws). There is a living and breathing adolescent in me, as I am sure we can all admit to, that some of these songs dig into and sing directly to. “There’s a hole in my soul, can you fill it?”, from Flaws, get past the exterior of day-to-day adult life and make me momentarily feel like the insecure sixteen year old I once was, and at times, still am. I turn up the volume and there they are, chills causing visible pin-prickle imprints on my skin.

My initial listen favorite is Oblivion. Though it is the sleeper of the album, it is no less powerful. It is so delicate, so vulnerable, so beautiful that I cannot help to feel it deeply. I feel not only the chill-inducing effect, but also the sting of tears at the corner of my eyes. There is this sense of mortality to the lyrics, and a huge heap of that loneliness I mentioned before, hitting me hard and immediate. This is a gorgeous kind of heartache that I find myself hitting repeat to, a few times actually, attracted to the pain like a moth to the flame, though for me the bright burn is cathartic, and necessary.

A close second favorite is the very next track on the album. Flaws is a confessional cacophony with a beat to dance to, exclaiming to all to hear that we are full of flaws and full of holes, alone in pain, but pain is universal, so why not link arms and help each other fill all the holes? There is life-affirmation in the admission of imperfections, and I cannot help to want to sing-a-long – loudly.

Can I take a moment to remark on a song that not only bears the name of a character from one of my all-time television series, Twin Peaks, but also shares part of my own name? Laura Palmer was destined to be an album favorite of mine, or at least the first track I would be most curious about. Thought it is not my initial favorite of the album, it is still a wonderful imagined battle cry for a character who never got much of a chance to have a voice of her own past found diary pages. This is almost musical fan fiction, I say “almost” because the song itself feels more of a “wish” of what Laura could have done (“if you had your gun would you shoot it at the sky to see where your bullet would fall?”) At times, too, it reads like a re-telling, a heartbreaking one, which still validates my persisting theory that all songs with my name in them are somehow related to death and loss. Regardless, this may be quickly becoming one of my favorite death and loss “Laura” songs (and yes, I have quite a collection).

Get Home is an interesting last track choice. Lyrically, it makes sense. There is a finality to it, a question of “how will I return to the start?” that a well-written film should leave the audience asking. There is also a dismissal to it, saying that “this is just like any other night“, trivializing the pathos and pain to an extent as just another day in this life. Musically, though, I feel that it leaves things unsettled. There does not seem to be a feeling of ending to any of it, and I find myself waiting and wanting one more song to tie it all up, to settle me emotionally. But again, is that not the essence of life? We are never quite finished (well until we finish) and never truly settled. All our tragedies are self-indulgent when examined, and none of that all that unique. Perhaps that is the life-affirming part right there though, the reason to keep going, to keep following on the path of naivete, thinking we will quench our longing for a feeling of settled and a cinematic end?

Don’t we all want to keep wanting more?

Bad Blood

Oblivion

Flaws (live at Abbey Road)

Laura Palmer

Bastille Dan Smith

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