Like a lot of people around my age, I was pretty heavily into Bastille’s debut Bad Blood when it came out. I remember having songs like ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ and ‘Bad Blood’ on repeat, and loving the album’s connections to mythology (‘Icarus’) and pop-culture (‘Laura Palmer’). It’s only been three years since that album came out, but it feels like a hell of a lot longer… Perhaps it’s because Bastille has been touring that album pretty much non-stop since its release, or because everyone has been so eager to see how the band’s second album will turn out. ‘How will they follow up Bad Blood?’
And, in short, the answer to that question is ‘by giving us more of the same’. Wild World doesn’t do much that the band’s first album didn’t – the only somewhat noteworthy additions are guitars and movie quotes – and many of the songs from the album feel like they could fit comfortably onto Bad Blood and vice versa.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a bit disappointing. Since my obsession with Bad Blood, I’ve gotten into loads of other bands – many of them much better than Bastille – and so what worked for me in 2013 doesn’t really work for me as much now. I’d like to stress that this isn’t a bad pop album – in fact, it’s a really competent one, being filled with catchy lyrics and good hooks. It just feels disposable. While I’m enjoying the album now, I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll revisit most of its songs ever again after a few months.
As the band have failed to develop, a lot of the problems Bad Blood had are present on Wild World. They were kind of excusable the first time around, but by repeating them the band have just made them all the more glaring. Dan Smith’s lyrics are the main problem. Too many of the songs hinge on cliché phrases, which just dampens any emotional impact they might have had. ‘The lesser of two evils’, ‘sleeping with the fishes’, ‘bury my head in the sand’, ‘I can’t believe my ears’, ‘turn a blind eye’, ‘we’re not that different, you and I’… How many times have you heard these phrases before? Can’t Smith come up with anything more creative? There are some nice lyrics here and there – I like ‘Won’t you exorcise my mind?’ from ‘Send Them Off!’ – but there’s too much that just makes me cringe.
Relating to the band’s refusal to develop, this album feels way too safe. Bastille never veer from the basic ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus’ structure, and this leads to all of the songs feeling the same to an extent. What the band are offering here is a clump of 19 (which is probably too many for one album), three-and-a-half minute, playlist-ready pop songs.
I don’t despise Wild World, and will admit that I quite like some of the tracks on it. ‘Send Them Off!’ is a highlight for me with its fun trumpet-y opening, and ‘Two Evils’, despite having some of the weakest lyrics on the album, makes for a great change of pace – stripping the band down to nothing more than Smith’s vocals and a single guitar. I love the instruments on ‘The Currents’ and the political edge of the song, and I think ‘Winter of Our Youths’ acts as a pretty good melancholy closer to the album (if you ignore the bonus tracks on what is called the ‘complete edition’).
If you’re looking for a set of fun, catchy pop songs, then Wild World will more than meet your need. Though if you were expecting something new from Bastille, then you’ll probably find it as disappointing as me.
Essential Songs: ‘The Currents’, ‘Two Evils’, ‘Send Them Off!’.