Bastille – ‘Wild World’ Review

For anyone wondering whether Bastille can make another ‘Pompeii’, they’ve created a whole album of them

We’re not sure anyone – even Bastille – could have predicted the success of their debut album, 2013’s ‘Bad Blood’. Five years ago frontman Dan Smith was a 25-year-old singer/songwriter making music from his south London bedroom. Now he’s got five million social media followers, can boast double the amount of records sold and is about to embark on his first arena tour with bandmates Woody, Kyle and Will.

That feeling of not-quite-believing-their-luck has prompted Bastille to work hard, knocking out a series of mixtapes and compilation albums (the ‘Other People’s Heartache’ trilogy is the best) since the release of their debut. They’ve toured the globe and quietly built an army of adoring, often obsessive, fans.

The downside of this massive success, though, is that it’s bred worry. With so many people to please, Smith has at times found it overwhelming, being honest about suffering (very well disguised) panic attacks on stage at this summer’s Glastonbury Festival. “If you’re not an extrovert, doing something as ridiculous as singing f**king songs is really anxiety-provoking,” he revealed.

On ‘Bad Blood’, inspiration was found in unlikely places – history books (‘Pompeii’), mythology (‘Icarus’) and cult TV (‘Laura Palmer’). ‘Wild World’ is based more in the here and now, with Smith’s vulnerability very much on show. Opener ‘Good Grief’ is a euphoric pop track about death and funerals and being sad, but done Bastille-style, with a massive chorus and an X Factor-worthy key change. ‘Warmth’, meanwhile, reflects on the kind of yell-at-the TV disbelief brought on by the current political climate. It could be 2016’s theme tune.

There are pop culture references littered throughout, too. ‘Four Walls (The Ballad Of Perry Smith)’ is inspired by one of the subjects of Truman Capote’s 1966 true-crime bestseller In Cold Blood. ‘Send Them Off’ and ‘Good Grief’ scrape quotes from cult ’70s and ’80s sci-fi films, with Smith’s storytelling on the former drawing from sources as far and wide as The Exorcist and Othello.

Reflective ballads flow into ’90s-vibes dance tracks and back around again, and the album features strings, horns, keys and the introduction of guitars – a new thing “simply because I couldn’t play guitar before”, says Smith. What unites it all is a belt-it-out chorus on every single track.

Sure, Bastille are a bit like that dude at school who flits between social groups. He likes a bit of hip-hop, a few indie tunes, and badgers the DJ for ’90s R&B when he’s p*ssed. But you know what, that guy’s mates with everyone and more fun to hang out with than the surly cool kid in the corner. As such, ‘Wild World’ is a triumphant pop record: unflinching in its ability to rouse listeners and unapologetic in its quest for a Number One.