The list of accolades that Bastille have accrued over just three studio albums is what most bands can only dream of when they start their career. With over 9 million records sold to date, several number one singles, and many major music awards added to their impressive resume, Bastille should be able to kick back and celebrate a bit. Coming off of a successful sophomore effort in Wild World, that was packed with content surrounding the changing world around us, political ramifications, and dense metaphors about how the world as we knew it was spiraling out of control, it only made sense for their follow-up to be called Doom Days.
The hype surrounding this particular release was at an all-time high due to the success of their Top 40 crossover smash with collaborator Marshmello in “Happier.” Everything was lining up perfectly for Bastille to deliver their landmark album in their discography since they appeared to have so much going in their favor. Doom Days chronicles their rise to fame, as well as what the band described in a recent interview as a loose concept album regarding “the importance of escapism, hope and the preciousness of close friendships.”
The party begins on the opener, “Quarter Past Midnight” as vocalist Dan Smith starts to paint the picture of a night out with friends when he sings on the chorus, “We keep on running/Running through a red light/Like we’re trying to burn the night away/Away, oh away/This is my favorite part, oh/Help me piece it all together darling/Before it falls apart, oh/Help me piece it all together.” The imagery of losing oneself in the spirit of the night comes through the music effortlessly, and Bastille is at their best when they allow themselves to tell a story organically as the album unfolds. As immediate as the song is, it made perfect sense for this track to be the lead single.
As great as the album opener is, “Bad Decisions” was one of the songs I found myself keep coming back to. With its rich textures of hand claps, rhythmic guitars, and eccentric beats, the song demands to be played as you travel through the atmosphere of a night drive in the city. The track also begins to build off some of the doomsday metaphors such as karma, and time running out, which help bring perspective to the fragile nature of relationships and life in general.
Other songs in the front half of the LP, such as “The Waves,” find Smith lyrically traveling down a rabbit hole of sorts as he depicts what he was feeling as he thinks about life thru the lens of watching the world around him crumble. For example, when he sings on the second verse, “Suddenly we’re fallin’ through the twilight zone/Watch the party playing out in slow motion/So tie a ribbon ’round my arm and throw me in/Is it an apocalypse or nihilism on your lips?/We sink or swim,” it’s hard to picture where he was going with the direction of the song. However, the lyrical content remains in the frame of the concept album of coming up on the doomsday clock’s final ticks.
“Divide” on the other hand is as beautiful of a song that Bastille has written to date, with only Bad Blood’s “Oblivion” being the only equivalency to the tenderness found on the track. The similarities in styles of the two songs are felt far and wide, with “Divide” finding Bastille adding more sounds around the piano-driven ballad to make a powerful statement in the early stages of the record. The nods back to their past work don’t stop there, as “Million Pieces” sounds more like the sequel to their Bad Blood duo of songs, “Weight of Living, Pt. I and II.” By adding a natural flair to these songs that sound like the logical progression of their sound, Bastille is evolving in the proper direction on their third LP.
The title track breaks up the continuity of the nods to the past with some tender acoustic guitar-driven opening notes in the song about how when the end of the world does come, Smith is finding himself only focused on that one person who had the most significant impact on his life. The song features some fresh beats and breakdowns, reminiscent of the styles of hip-hop artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Timbaland. Usually, title tracks tend to be the most significant artistic statements on a record, and this song comes as no exception.
“Nocturnal Creatures” and “4 AM” came off as rare misses to me, looking at a band that hits their target more often than not. Whether it was the downtempo style of the two songs back-to-back, or just that these songs that didn’t connect with me as much as the earlier songs, I found myself looking less forward to this part of the album on repeat listens through the record.
Luckily, “Another Place” gets Bastille back on track with some great songwriting and great beats courtesy of drummer Chris Wood. It’s on this song that lyricist Dan Smith comes to the realization of a key breaking point in a relationship when he sings, “I could write a book about the things that you said to me on the pillow/And the way you think, and how you make me feel/You can fill my mind and move my body with the fiction, fantasies/Just call this what it is, we don’t pretend is real.” The song brings back the human element to the record that some of the middle tracks were lacking, and it ends up being my favorite song on the back half.
Album closer “Joy” feels like a sign of the direction that Bastille is heading to in their career: onward and upward. Their positive energy on this song is contagious, and it feels warm and personal as they get a backing gospel chorus to help drive their sound home. Overall, Bastille has continued to create another set of highly enjoyable songs that I will find myself coming back to in the months to come. Success is never guaranteed, but it would be unwise to think that this record would do anything to deter Bastille’s run of good fortune.