Sunday 08 December 2019
Pyramids Plaza, Portsmouth
Doom Days, Bastille’s grippingly confident third album, is a record for turbulent times, finding redemption through human connection in an era when people are increasingly divided and isolated by technology and politics.
Made by Dan Smith with bandmates Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson and Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, and their regular producer Mark Crew, it sees Bastille stretch out and open up like never before.
When their single Pompeii became a record-breaking, multi-platinum global hit in 2019, Dan Struggled to find his space. “You write songs in your bedroom, then you’re suddenly in a band that people know ,” he says. Seeing himself primarily as a songwriter and record producer rather than a pop star, Dan sometimes felt like an imposter. Despite fronting one of the biggest bands to emerge from the UK in the last decade, he couldn’t shake the feeling that their success was temporary and that he was just passing through.
That changed around the time of 2016’s critically acclaimed Wild World, which wrestled with the emotional consequences of a period of intense political upheaval, as Bastille embraced a series of new opportunities.
Their latest album Doom Days partly a reaction to the panic and unease of Wild World. Dan remembers performing at Germany’s Rock am Ring festival in June 2017, the day after it was evacuated by a bomb threat. “Everything behind us on the screen was paranoid news media and Trumpian politics ,” he says. “Although we were really proud of the show we’d put together, we couldn’t help wondering whether it was our responsibility to hold up a mirror to those things or if our live shows should be a chance to escape them. It’s complicated .”
The first half of the album is about escapism, and the things people are trying to escape. The euphoric Million Pieces, which makes anxiety sound like euphoria, stems from an incident at a party when Dan was trying to enjoy himself while someone insisted on buttonholing him about politics.
Doom Days pivots on the title track, which confronts those crushing issues head-on. “I was thinking about our phone addiction ,” Dan says. “How mad it is to always be holding this thing that’s a rolling, scrolling window into the wonders and horrors of the world. It keeps us in constant contact with total strangers and the people we love, which is both super intimate and totally isolating at the same time. It can be confusing and overwhelming but also brilliant. Originally there were 50 verses for the song because there’s no end to the list of things you might want to escape. All the things we took for granted feel very different now .”
After that psychic purge, the album becomes less manic and more celebratory of the personal connections that make life bearable, whether it’s close friends, 4AM, or a casual hook-up, Another Place. The infectious, galloping breakbeat of Nocturnal Creatures, like the kinetic Million Pieces, is Bastille’s tribute to the 1990s, a less troubled decade that Dan is young enough to mythologise.
Bastille’s newfound confidence can be heard in every second of Doom Days, which is all at once their most personal, their most political and their most danceable record.
The night is closing in. The clock is ticking. LET’S GO.
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