A fresh but genuine progression for Bastille that was not rushed in the wake of Bad Blood's overwhelming success, Wild World is a varied and comprehensive masterclass in how to do a second album.
“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?” The first line of ‘Good Grief,’ Wild World‘s lead single, summarises the huge task Bastille faced when taking on the menace that is any band’s second album. Though these “little maniacs” have a heap of new directions and sounds to explore, they also have the weight of a hugely successful first album (Bad Blood) on their backs. What to do first? The answer: a little bit of everything. On Wild World, they have constructed a widely diverse range of music across just 14 tracks, spanning a heap of genres and themes, but each song is just as listenable as the last.
Wild World‘s been a long time coming, and Bastille’s perfectionism really shines through with a clear determination to make something which lives up to their groundbreaking debut and feels different enough show an evolution as a band. Fortunately, it succeeds: there’s pop, rock, R&B, and soulful melodies all melted together into an album that you can feast your ears on for hours without getting bored. A particular strength of the music is its cinematic quality, aided by the use of snippets from the likes of 1985 movie Weird Science – the source of that opening line of the record – to introduce or interrupt around half of the songs. Each Wild World track tells a different story, projecting relatable emotions straight into the ear – of anxiety, power struggle, and, of course, love.
Despite this diversity, there is an overarching theme woven through pretty much all of Wild World‘s tracks. Its title is taken from ‘Warmth,’ the fourth track, which howls, “Hold me in this wild, wild world / ’cause in your warmth I forget how cold it can be.” The album feels like a comment on the current state of the world: one of fear and division. Both ‘Good Grief’ and ‘The Currents’ tap into this sense of hysteria (“Watching through my fingers,” and, “I don’t want to believe my ears”) showing that the band, like the rest of us, isn’t very happy about being dragged along in the currents.
The tracklist feels oddly set, with the big, loud hits at either end of the album and a definite midway lull. Less spectacular songs such as ‘Glory’ and ‘Two Evils’ can feel a bit samey and skippable, but seem to be the type that listeners will learn to love in time. Perhaps their inclusion is another effect used to increase the disorientating feel of the album. Opening with ‘Good Grief’ is an obvious though slightly grating choice – as explosive and poppy an introduction the song provides, it doesn’t quite have the same inner darkness that the best Bastille songs possess. ‘The Currents,’ which follows, is far more successful at finding a balance between being catchy and edgy, akin to ‘Pompeii‘ and ‘Of The Night’ before it. ‘Warmth,’ a highlight of the record that is slightly less in-your-face loud, is propelled primarily by Dan Smith’s amazing vocals, which, once all components are broken down, are the real success point of the band.
‘Lethargy’ and ‘Snakes’ tap into an anxiety that is relatable to any young adult – “Get up, get up / Pressure, pressure / On your way as fast as you can go,” “What I’d do not to worry like you.” – and ‘Blame,’ the angriest track, is a snarling retaliation towards being held responsible for something that isn’t your fault. ‘Power’ demonstrates some of the most impressive guitar on the album, scaling up from a quiet riff to an explosion of sound, and closer ‘Winter of Our Youth’ unites all these themes and wraps them in nostalgic longing for the uncomplicated nature of childhood.
The entirety of Wild World feels designed for live audiences to sing their lungs out to – a gift ahead of their upcoming arena tour, which begins at the Bournemouth International Centre next month. A fresh but true-to-form evolution for Bastille, Wild World is a masterclass in how any band should do album number two and a certain contender for album of the year so far.
Wild World is released on September 9th by Virgin Records