Bastille, Bad Blood

There are mercifully a very few albums that try so very hard, are so well constructed, are so incredibly artful in their intention, but yet for whatever severe flaw they have you can only bear to listen to them once. And here's one of them. I enjoy the art and the nuance, which by and large avoid descent into pretense thanks to the (generally) textured lyrics and slick production. Quite possibly the literary peak is "Things We Lost In The Fire;" you really do feel the despair and loss, not least from Dan Smith's earnest vocals, but also from the literate and deliberately subtle wordplay. Another standout is "Icarus," blending the hubris and self-disregard of the Greek myth with modern ungroundedness' appetite for self-destruction, and "Oblivion," its refrain echoing from time outside of time: "Are you going to age with grace? Are you going to leave a path to trace?" I ought to love this album for not dumbing its themes down, and some tracks I do, like the deservedly popular single "Pompeii" — just close your eyes and pretend as the world ends around you — and the exuberant "Weight of Living, Pt II" with its sympathy for the great burden of just existing over rollicking arpeggios and an infectious beat. But that last part is the fatal flaw: this album just exhausted the merde out of me. The pacing is almost untenable. Even its more sedate moments are merciless, veering between irregular contemplation and unexpected percussive assaults, while the rest is relentless beats per minute. How can I enjoy the pleasures of the album's thematic complexities between track after track that won't let me breathe? Worse, the three bonus tracks don't add anything but more of the same abuse, though at least they're new (sadly "Weight of Living, Pt I" is not a patch on its follow-on, however). Eventually it got to the point where I felt there was something wrong with me to find this album so arduous and so terribly draining that I dreaded another run-through to write this review, that I really needed to be on amphetamines or something to truly plumb its depths. And by golly, no matter how incredible its literary value, that is not a compliment. (Content: no concerns.)