Album Review: Wild World

WonkeyDude98
Mini-Description: In my seventeenth album review, 🎶 if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like Bastille know what they're doing at all?🎶

Best Song: "Blame"
Worst Songs: "Two Evils", "An Act Of Kindness", "Snakes", "Oil On Water", "Winter Of Our Youth", "Campus", "Fake It", "Shame", "Send Them Off", "Warmth", "The Current"

2/10


I didn't want to do this review.

I've never talked about Bastille much until now, but I remember listening to their debut album Bad Blood a while back, and liking it, but not loving it. Despite some pretty great songwriting chops, a frontman with a ton of expressive charisma, and a knack for grandeur anthems that are way bigger and better than they have any right to have been (especially Pompeii, one of my favorite songs of 2014), they were also a bit colorless, and occasionally the songs fell into the lukewarm, universal template that plagues a lot of modern pop, except they were actually able to pull off the bombast.

When I heard Good Grief for the first time, it was...alright. I did find the lyrics about putting on your happy face after the death of a lover to be fine, if a bit overcircumferenced, but the instrumentation was nowhere near as strong, showing no regards for melody or tune, and instead shoving the compressed percussion to the forefront. This gave me no expectations for their sophomore album Wild World in any way good or bad. Is it at least measurable to Bad Blood?

Well... NO. As a matter of fact, if this is what Bastille's sound is going to end up like for the rest of their careers (assuming it even continues), then this is the record that ends up making me hate them, because this isn't just disappointing, it's garbage, easily one of the worst albums of the year. I mean, it's an indie rock sophomore album, but even by those standards this isn't passable at all.

If you were looking at the instrumentation and production, you could tell. One thing Bastille have never really mastered in their careers, it's intimacy. Their songs are very big and universal, often lacking in very much warmth that characterizes bands like U2 within the genre. You'd think they would stick the landing at some point, but if anything it's even worse here, because they've kept their ice-cold sound, but the beats are stripped of the organic bombast that made songs like Pompeii so great. Take The Current for example. It tries for a bit more liquified grime in the staccato keyboards and the blocky synths, but the textures are completely swamped out by the reverb, which in turn is swamped out by the drums. It's even worse on Send Them Off, which could have worked if the horns that merged with the guitars weren't compressed so high making them all the more plastic, and it doesn't help that the low-compressed drums completely overcompensated for it.

It gets worse. Campus is half-led by a pretty decent guitar snarl, but is completely counterbalanced by a high-pitched 2-child choir from your nightmares. Or An Act Of Kindness, which has to be the least interesting ballad I've heard in quite some time. Or Oil On Water, with some of the worst synth compression on any song since YNO by Rae Sremmurd.

And Snakes...okay, I'll be honest, this is the fastest any song has made me hate it. Right off the bat we get a headache-inducing haze of synth that sounds like 23 by Mike WiLL Made-It met Woo by Rihanna. Fortunately the rest of the song is just a repackaging of Send Them Off, so I guess that's a plus.

And the even colder, stiffer instrumentation doesn't make sense, because they've actually got a lot more guitars than on Bad Blood. Like on The Current, or the slightly louder guitar growls and the boinging synth on Warmth, or the hideously drab acoustic ballad Two Evils.

Now, that's not to say every instrumental moment is awful. Warmth, as stated, sounds okay up until the chorus comes up and emphasizes the percussion, the plucks on Power, or the tighter bassline on Shame, or what's far and away the best song here in Blame, these are all pretty decent instrumentals all things considered.

But the whole album has two universal flaws in its music: first, it's so bland. It's incoherent and clumsy, but it never once gets interesting ever. And as a result of every song falling under the percussion-over-melody template combined with the cold, rigid production makes the whole thing feel gray and run together, it's so monochrome I actually had to take notes to distinguish and remember each song (something I usually never have to do with an album of this caliber of awful).

Second, it's so LONG. 18 tracks, with only 2 being under 3 minutes long. It's over an hour of the musical equivalent of a 1950s documentary. It's tedious, dull, and borderline monotonous.

Now, Dan Smith has always been a tough case to crack vocally. Well...he tries. His voice is very raw and big-sounding, and it never lets up even once. And while that works for songs going towards higher concepts and more drama, with the themes of this album it feels out-of-place, almost clueless.

And that takes us to the lyrics and themes, and...well. Here's something I never thought I could describe Bastille as: insufferable. This bothers me especially, because with the non-instrumentals there's nothing to distract me from the mind of a slowly mentally degrading manchild who calls himself Dan Smith. And really, there are so many awful lines here I'm actually at a loss of where to start. I could talk about how Good Grief is almost needlessly melodramatic in its previously established presentation, but I think it's overshadowed by what's pretty much finger-pointing on Shame, or Send Them Off and Snakes, which both seem to be about asking someone to release Dan's demons, but I guess Bastille were just hoping that people forgot when fellow indie acts Imagine Dragons and twenty-øne piløts did this with just as good a vocal performance, better production, and more nuance with Demons and Goner respectively.

That's not even the root of it at all, because then we get Fake It, where Dan tries to fake being a nice guy to his lover. That ends up being known as the finished draft to the absolute nadir of this album, Two Evils, which is a competition with another guy for a girl's heart, which is already petty in its own right, but then we have the line "as the lesser of two evils, it pays to be the nice guy sometimes".

So basically he's saying that "you can't expect me to have human decency when I don't feel like it". BITE ME, Dan Smith. That's before we get to An Act Of Kindness, where Dan is rendered guilty and even offended by the mere act of someone being kind to HIM. That's only further exacerbated by Power, where he says that he "can take pain" (oh yeah and just for the record Chris Stapleton did this song way better last year). Combined with the NOSTALGIA HATING on Winter Of Our Youth, this album comes off as painfully nihilist.

But the problem is that this album isn't intended to be.

You can have a Future or Anohni album, where while their vocals don't match their self-hating themes whatsoever, they at least admit that those themes are there. As bad as both DS2 and Hopelessness were, Bastille have it honestly worse, because Dan Smith's rawer, more earnest tone shows a very clear dissonance between the instrumental/vocal tone and the lyrical tone.

And that brings me to my last point. Bastille lay out so many of their problems on the table, but, especially on Warmth (imagine Father John Misty's I Love You Honeybear's title track but switching out the nuanced humor with emo), they're completely unwilling to fix any of their problems. It leaves a gigantic hole in the album's plot, and one that harms it significantly. At least when other indie rock bands like fun. write about their own problems, they aren't this self-absorbed and impossible to relate to.

Now, again, I'm not saying everything on this album is awful. Good Grief, Glory, and Four Walls don't really irritate me as much as they just do bore me to tears, and Blame is a genuinely good song with lyrics and instrumentation that have some actual punch, even if trying to hear Dan Smith pull it off is hilarious in its own sad kind of way. But other than that?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this? Wild World is simultaneously a safe "effort", and an incoherent mess saved by exactly one good song and four okay songs. Is it at least good by indie rock sophomore albums? No it's not! Terribly produced and immaturely written, with a frontman too up his own anus to realize he's an unlikeable nihilist. In other words, this is a strong 2/10 and no way I can recommend this. When it comes to rock this year, you can do better than Bastille. Nick Cave, Swans, Kyle Craft, Car Seat Headrest, Lydia Loveless, even Young The Giant, Radiohead, American Authors, and Delain are dropping better rock albums this year than this. Avoid it like the plague.

This is WonkeyDude98, and my next review is going to take a while.

Comments

As the biggest Pop-rock music fan on the site, I wonder a lot why it' gets so much flack. Then I realize this exists. Who knew, the same people who made Pompeii could make this?

Also, a quick question, what's your opinion on Talking Dreams by Echomsith? I remember you liked it back when I first showed it to you. I just need a reminder - ProPanda

I wondered why too, RiverClanRocks especially hated Bastille. But man, this album was absolute garbage.

I gave it an 8/10 I think. - WonkeyDude98

No like what prevented it from a potential 9 or 10 - ProPanda

Tell Her You Love Her and something else.

Also, talking about that, just the title makes me quiver with frustration at the thought, given what circumstances I'm in now. - WonkeyDude98

I just realized lol - ProPanda

Never heard of Bastille, and after reading this, I don't - Mcgillacuddy

Check out their debut album Bad Blood. It's not great, but it's good. - WonkeyDude98

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