In 2013, British alternative band Bastille dropped their debut album (that’s right, it’s already been three whole years since then), earning them explosive popularity and success. The album peaked at #1 in the band’s home country and #11 in the US, with the smash hit single “Pompeii” hitting #5 on the US Billboard. Bad Blood was an exceptionally well-produced alternative pop, indie-rock album drawing thematically from Roman history and Greek mythology among other unorthodox sources, making it a truly memorable release.
So how does Bastille follow-up a debut like that? How about with a massively long concept album which acutely sums up what young people all over the western world have been doing for years now, perhaps without even realizing they were doing it?
Bastille’s sophomore album, Wild World, centers around a theme that is fleshed out in different ways throughout the album's long 19 track lineup, but is all brought together by its lyrical centerpiece, “Warmth:” The world we live in today seems so messed up, so full of madness and horror. It seems every other news headline speaks of something just too terrible to think about. We watch the Presidential debates and can do nothing but shake our heads, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and frightened of this scary “wild” world that we find ourselves inheriting. In an age where technology and entertainment have become so accessible and powerful, it has become easy for us to simply hide away and try to distract ourselves.
“Never good just the bad and ugly \ laid in front of you \ Nothing quite like seeing the world through the TV’s window \ feeling helpless I look for distraction,” frontman Dan Smith laments, “I can’t stop thinking about it \ Did you see the news tonight?” Overwhelmed with this reality he finds, he pleads for warmth and distraction saying, “Hold both hands right over my eyes” and “Deafen me with music.” In the chorus he speaks of these distractions in terms of a warm embrace, an interesting analogy in my opinion. Truly, that is how so many of us treat technology and entertainment—almost like a safety blanket for a toddler.
I think one has to appreciate a band like Bastille for accurately summing up the overwhelming and frankly frightening state of so many young (and old, I’m sure) people’s minds. They do a remarkable job of creating an atmosphere through their music. The album sounds a lot like a big mashup of Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons, with a little bit of Walk the Moon tossed in there just for fun. I enjoy the way they manage to pack their songs full of emotion with a very epic flare, much like their first album. There is something almost cinematic and grand in the way the album plays out—–much like Imagine Dragons and Mumford.
Also like the last album, Bastille works in some cool references to literary and historical sources. Shakespeare’s Othello seems to be the inspiration for one of the major standout tracks, “Send Them Off!” and probably the most obvious example of their literary lyricism. Though many of their songs follow a very similar pattern, nearly every song manages to bring a little something unique and interesting to the table—which is remarkable considering the album’s massive length. Though there are a few songs that fail to leave much of an impression, these songs are rare. Most of the tracks manage to be musically catchy and lyrically compelling, especially the haunting and thought-provoking song on capital punishment, “Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith).”
Other standouts on the album definitely include the first song,“Good Grief”, a catchy and fun opening track dealing with heartbreak. “Campus” also deserves mention because it tells of college students and their reconciling to culture.
All things said, Wild World is a solid alternative pop album. Even if their sound isn’t your cup of tea, I think you should be able to appreciate their talent on display in this album. If Bastille continues on their current trajectory, I think we can expect to see good things from these Brits in the coming years.