British band Bastille, fronted by lead vocalist Dan Smith, released their debut album Bad Blood in 2013. This album garnered commercial if not critical success, reaching Number 2 in the UK Album Charts, with one of the singles from the album ‘Pompeii’ reaching Number 1. Ten years on, ‘Pompeii’ remains one of the band’s most well-known singles, reaching over a billion streams on Spotify. The overarching themes of the album – the fear of growing up, a sense of nostalgia and grief – have grown with the audience, relevant even ten years after the album’s debut to both old and new fans alike.
The eponymous song ‘Bad Blood’ continues this theme of loss
‘Pompeii’ serves as the album’s opening song, detailing the hypothetical thoughts of the inhabitants of Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, which buried the town in ash, preserving both the buildings and the bodies of the townspeople forever. Smith’s haunting vocals imbue the lyrics with a sense of hopeless grief; the repeated question “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” forms part of the song’s chorus, a repeated, desperate plea to the listener, juxtaposed with the more upbeat rhythm of the song. Loss is a predominant theme of the song, the sense of being incapable of coping with grief is sustained throughout. This theme speaks to the listener almost directly, constantly relevant even through the passage of time.
The eponymous song ‘Bad Blood’ continues this theme of loss, of grieving a time gone by that can never be returned to. The lyrics “we will walk our different ways/but those are the days that bind us” encapsulate this sense of grief, mourning a lost friendship. The subject is much more mundane than ‘Pompeii’, but the theme of loss carries through both, creating a sense of nostalgia for a past that is gone, an apt theme now, looking back at this album ten years after its release.
Along with the sense of loss and nostalgia, the fear of growing up is predominant throughout the album. No songs communicate this more effectively than ‘Weight of Living, Pt. I’ and ‘Weight of Living, Pt. II’. The titles of these songs encapsulate the theme – the fear of growing up, and the loss of the carefree innocence of childhood. The “albatross” in ‘Pt. I’ serves as a metaphor for this weight, a burden that the singer must carry with him now that he has reached adulthood. ‘Weight of Living, Pt. II’ is much less metaphorical than ‘Pt. I’, boldly stated, “now that you are [old]/suddenly you fear/you’ve lost control”. The bluntness of these lyrics is a shock to the system, bringing the vague fears surrounding growing up into the light. These lyrics are juxtaposed against the upbeat beat of the song, but the anxiety the lyrics communicate is compelling to the listener, especially one who has grown with the album.
Despite the heavy themes present in Bad Blood, the album overall is timeless
The fear of growing up is continued in the song ‘Icarus’. Like Pompeii, this song draws on the ancient world to parallel modern-day life, specifically the myth of Icarus, a boy who flew too close to the sun and subsequently fell into the se and drowned after the wax used to make his wings melted. This has long been used as a cautionary tale, and this carries through into the song. The slow start explodes into a beat which is sustained throughout the song, matching the lyrics, which evoke a specific type of growing up, shown in the lyrics “out on the front doorstep/drinking from a paper cup/you won’t remember this”. Reminiscent of coming-of-age movies, ‘Icarus’ presents growing up as dangerous: “standing on the cliff face/highest fall you’ll ever grace”, “Icarus is flying towards an early grave”. The almost parental anxiety around children growing up present in this song is different from the highly personalised feeling in ‘Weight of Living’, but the fear is a consistent presence throughout many songs in this album.
Despite the heavy themes present in Bad Blood, the album overall is timeless, and popular even ten years on. The commercial success of its debut hasn’t faded, with songs such as ‘Pompeii’ remaining iconic and recognisable even now. To an audience that has grown up with this album, the themes of nostalgia and growing up are more relevant now than ever, and will continue to be in the future, ensuring ‘Bad Blood’ is an album whose popularity with listeners will continue for years to come.