It has been three years since Bastille made their mark on the music scene with their debut album, Bad Blood. ‘Pompeii’ became the band’s defining track, or “that song with the oh-oh-uh-oh bit that everyone knows”. Since then, the group have been working on follow-up Wild World. Single ‘Good Grief’ does not join a crowd in a sing-a-long quite like previous releases but is excellent at telling the listener what else they can expect.
To call Wild World a second album almost seems like a lie. This is possibly the greatest thing to happen to anyone who has an aversion to bands straying from their established sound. Each track is so similar to every other on the album, and previous releases, it sounds like an extension of their debut. It really is the conservatory on Bad Blood‘s house.
Bastille also continue to deserve commendation for an under-appreciated art; the forced English accent while singing. Dan Smith’s vocals are a trademark for the band, with tea and crumpets almost audible in every note. The upbeat nature has also remained, but to such an extent it blurs into the background when listening to the album as a whole.
Wild World‘s parts are greater than the whole. Bastille’s songs have a habit of being incredibly interchangeable, and this is kicked into overdrive here. The same accent straining and non-threatening music teeters on being draining as you itch for some variation in the upbeat delivery. None of the songs are terrible, in fact they’re all solid, but they are so similar to one another sitting through the entirety becomes almost difficult.
With that said, there are songs which have a slight edge; ‘The Current’, ‘Warmth’ and Good Grief’ are just different enough to stick out. They are not a tonal adjustment but they feel stronger; the choruses pack a little more punch and the rhythm takes you. There are no true weak songs for a comparison, just the blur of safe sound. This radio-friendly sound is no accident. Each song sounds constructed for Radio 1 and is part of the best self-marketing technique around: “Like this single? The rest of the album is pretty much this. May as well buy it. And some gig tickets, while you’re at the computer”.
Aside from sticking rigidly to a formula, there is another constant theme. Soundbites from film and media are a common tool to add atmosphere or establish a song’s narrative. For this album, particularly in ‘Send Them Off’, it’s just out of place and pulls you out of the moment. That’s forgivable until it keeps happening. When they use clips for ‘Fake It’, you’re just sitting there wondering if your audio has messed up and started playing a movie because it doesn’t fit right. By penultimate track ‘Snakes’ it’s really not funny anymore. It’s a shame because it’s distracting from the subtle background rattle, which is a fun addition to the music. There had better be significant writing credit given to third-party sources.
Wild World is not a terrible album, it just works better when spread out. Each song is solid enough but it is bordering on genuinely difficult to listen to it in one go. There are 14 songs which all start to sound the same. If you have something to do but need background music, it’s fantastic. If you want to appreciate each song for individual merit, create a playlist.
Wild World is out on September 9th via Virgin/EMI.