Being highly successful seems not to have figured in frontman Dan Smith’s aspirations for Bastille, whose 4m album sales have triggered ambivalence and self-doubt. Along with gloom roused by global events, his anxiety governs their second album. Though the band’s unyieldingly catchy, electro-influenced maximalism still drives most tracks – and anyone who denies that Bastille can write a hook is deluded – the album ripples with unease. Film obsessive Smith has slipped vintage movie samples into the songs, and even these point to his state of mind: for instance, Warmth starts with a male voice intoning “Getting caught up in the circus-like atmosphere, feeling less responsible”, and the track accordingly vibrates with the yearning for a safe haven. An Act of Kindness, warmed by Jungle-style harmonies, is an emotional memory of feeling unworthy; the spaghetti-western ballad Two Evils, is an affecting account of man-in-the-mirror self-confrontation, and also suggests they should do many more slowies. Guitars feature more heavily than on the debut album, further blurring the line between Bastille and fellow over-thinkers Coldplay, but Bastille have the edge in terms of unfeigned emotionalism.
Caroline Sullivan writes about rock and pop for the Guardian