Following up a successful debut album is an incredibly difficult task. The best artists have used their sophomore effort as an expansion on the characteristic sound they established on their debut. Bastille’s electronic-rock contemporary Alt-J did this masterfully on their second album “This Is All Yours.” On their colossal, nineteen-song album “Wild World,” Bastille succeeds in progressing their unique sound, even finding brilliance on several songs. However, they also wander into forgettable territory.
Bastille burst onto the alternative music scene with their debut “Bad Blood” in 2013, featuring the smash hit “Pompeii” and displaying a unique blend of electronics and orchestra strings on complex tracks such as “Oblivion” and “Laughter Lines.”
“Wild World,” released last Friday, opens with “Good Grief,” a brighter and perhaps even catchier version of “Pompeii,” that serves well as the album’s lead single. However, the first sign of progress is the third track, ”An Act Of Kindness.” The piece is an electronically layered experience that maintains the raw emotion Bastille have gotten so good at delivering.
On “Glory,” Bastille hone what they do best by blending crisp electronics with stunning orchestral backgrounds. All components, from the early dance beat to the piano to the vocals, work together as the song builds to a passionate climax. Additionally, “Glory”’s strings are more effective than those of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” or Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” because, instead of driving the melody, the orchestra gradually emerges from beneath the electronics to create a truly epic climax. Bastille has learned the art of building up songs with dynamics and layers, and it is nothing short of glorious.
There are a few other gems. “Two Evils” is a fitting interlude for such a large album, and “Oil On Water” features worthy experimentation with horns. However, like many double albums before it, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Stadium Arcadium” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” “Wild World” is half brilliance and half mediocrity. There is a stretch of six or seven songs in the middle that is simply forgettable and hinders the flow of the entire album.
Despite this, there is a lot to be discovered on Wild World. Bassist and guitarist Will Farquarson has really come out of his shell, and Dan Smith has dramatically improved his lyrics. Like many great bands preceding them, Bastille expanded and advanced their sound beautifully on their sophomore effort.