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(Credit: Sarah Louise Bennett)

Music

Bastille surprise with new album 'Give Me The Future'

6.4

As somebody who actively hated Bastille’s breakout hit ‘Pompeii’ when it was released in 2013, reviewing their fourth album Give Me The Future, seemed like a Herculean task. On paper, this was to be 32 minutes of my life that I’d never get back, suffocated by frontman Dan Smith’s constant melisma and unashamedly pop manner. 

However, what I found was a very well-made record, and afterwards, the old adage ‘don’t knock until you’ve tried it’ sprang to mind. Have I been converted? Certainly not. But have I come to understand the artistry of Bastille a little more? Yes. 

Is it a record I’d personally listen to again? Probably not, but that’s not to say that this album will not be the favourite of millions in terms of releases in 2022. Stacked with existential Millenial themes, even if you’re not into the music, you can get behind Dan Smith’s commentary of the state of the world in contemporary times. Ranging from the political to the environmental, this is the most pertinent record the band have ever made. 

When listening, I was reminded of a candid interview Dan Smith gave with The Guardian back in January. “I’ve never been good at trying to pretend to be like this slick, rock star frontman, because it’s not what I ever wanted to be,” he told the publication. “I see other artists who are so good at that – and it’s a skill in itself – but it’s just not one that I’m that interested in”.

It is with this sentiment with which you have to approach Bastille, as Smith’s not an offensive character in the slightest, and you cannot doubt that he’s an incredibly talented songwriter. I, for one, have never been keen on his vocal delivery, but that doesn’t substitute from the fact that he knows how to pen a tune. 

In terms of pop music, Give Me The Future does just that. It’s crammed with dynamic tracks, taking the constantly metamorphosing style of Glass Animals, and doing something interesting with it. It’s splattered with Smith’s fascination with popular culture and science fiction, with references ranging from track two’s title ‘Thelma + Louise’ to Blade Runner and Margaret Atwood. 

It’s also brimming with the sentiment that after the past two years, perhaps brighter days are on the horizon, and in the depths of winter, it’s something we could all do with hearing. ‘No Bad Days’ is effectively two fingers up to Covid, and has the makings of a future classic for the band. Smith sings: “You’ll have no more bad days”, thank you, but I wish it was true. 

Whilst the track ‘Back To The Future’ is quite captivating musically, with nods to the funk of Jungle, the line ‘Can we just Blade Run Run away?’ is truly awful, and regardless of how much Smith wanted to heap praise on the film/book, there was just no need for that. Funky as hell bassline, though. 

The track ‘Plug In…’ is an interesting moment. It starts off with some really terrible vocals that are coloured by the vocoder or a similar effect. However, Smith rescues the track with some wry lyricism. He’s topical, and it’s on moments like this where you can tell the band have really come into their own on the new record. Smith sings: Ice caps’ll fall, Cali’ll burn / Wilful denial until it’s my turn / Bunch of old white men who don’t give a fuck / Are we having fun yet?.

Props have to go the production on the record. It’s full-bodied, futuristic and takes the band to levels that you’d have thought impossible when listening to their debut. It’s peppered with some beautiful glacial strings that take their cues from Philip Glass, and dare I say it, Jonny Greenwood

‘Promises’ is a real delight. A rap by Riz Ahmed, again, it’s as pertinent as ever. Ahmed’s piece is a thought-provoking lament on humanity’s present juncture and makes a strong claim for being the most essential appearance in pop music so far this year. 

‘Give Me The Future’ is another highlight. The title track, it enforces the point that Smith, like so many of us, is sick of the present, and wants to escape the throes of where we’re at. He sings, “We ain’t nothing but the things we’ve seen” and “so give me the future it’s golden and bright”, his intent is clear. In addition to this, the production here really shines, and is a nod to the fact that Bastille have just entered a new era creatively. They could be about to enjoy the decade of their career. 

One down point is ‘Club 57’ a strangely optimistic outlier, it stands out lyrically and musically and just didn’t need to be there. 

On the final track, ‘Future Holds’, Smith sings: “Who knows what the future holds? Don’t matter if I got you”. An optimistic gaze into the sunset, he states defiantly, “I can’t live fast and die young, obsessing over the future”, hitting on the confusion of the Millenial experience. Augmented by the soulful backing vocals of BIM, the track is a great way to close the book. 

Although they’re not for everyone, Give Me The Future, is Bastille’s finest moment yet, and a signifier that they could be about to enjoy the most artistic credibility of their career’s.

Listen to Give Me The Future below. 

Bastille - 'Give Me The Future'
6.4