Judging by the comments from Bastille frontman Dan Smith prior to the release of their new remix album Vs, you get the impression the band weren’t really intending to put out a meaningful record. Smith’s assertions that their latest project was mainly about “working with as many people as possible”, and “having fun”, say little but speak volumes, ie. that Vs was meant as nothing more than a pre-Christmas money spinner. Sadly for the rest of us, these affirmations prove highly accurate as the 9-track LP plays out in the most predictable and formulaic of fashions. On their relishable, albeit limited, debut record Bad Blood, Bastille demonstrated a canny ability to use aspects of both mainstream and retro pop to their advantage, quickly becoming a Youtube and Spotify sensation in the process. Here, however, the band fall far short in delivering anything meaningful, or even slightly unanticipated, preferring instead to just go through the motions with laboriously overlapping tunes like ‘The Driver’, ‘Axe to Grind’ and ‘Torn Apart’.
Although the record was essentially intended as a mix tape, the limited nature of both the remixes, and the numerous collaborations, means it just ends up sounding like a Bastille record with a few guest appearances. With the exception of the excellent Angel Haze, whose voice is indeed a ‘Weapon’ on the said track, the majority of the other collaborators are reduced to mere bystanders such is their lack of prominence.
HAIM, one of last year’s most popular acts, are barely identifiable on fizzy pop number ‘Bite Down’, while the presence of Lizzo, another of last year’s breakthrough artists, is dumbed down to a 20 second verse on the 80 second remix of ‘Torn Apart’. Even the interesting revisiting of ’90s Britrockers Skunk Annansie, on album closer ‘Remains’, sounds painfully forced, not to mention slightly obscure. Given Bastille’s meteoric rise to prominence last year they may feel entitled to some breathing space between albums, with their latest material expected to be lapped up by their devoted fan base nonetheless, but for a band that is essentially ‘all about production’ there’s very little to get excited about here.