Review: Bastille stray from norm on Doom Days

“Aren’t we all just looking for a little bit of hope these days?”

What a daunting task it must be to create a concept album — writing 50 or so minutes of music structured around one theme. But that’s what makes them incredible. Sure, there are plenty of good LPs with no thread between tracks, but something so magical happens when a collection of songs, played in succession, tell a story. Think: My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns, Green Day’s American Idiot.

Or maybe even Bastille’s previous LP, Wild World, which told the not-so-fictitious tale of a world gone out of control. But when that reality kept getting darker, a different type of album needed to be created.

What makes Doom Days different from its predecessor is that it isn’t inherently about the downfall of society. It’s not an outright political commentary. It’s an attempted departure from reality, taking place in the span of the twilight hours, a time when all good decisions are made.

As “The Waves” so eloquently states, “Oh, what would your mother say if she could see what we’re doing now?/Oh, what would your mother say if she could hear what we talk about?”

Starting at a “Quarter Past Midnight,” we’re drawn into a night of escapism as time ticks on. We experience the inevitable highs (“Joy”) and lows (“Another Place”) of social gatherings and relationships. We’re all looking for a little bit of hope, but what’s the best way of obtaining it?

The Review

I’m a little disappointed. What made Bastille special, besides Dan Smith’s unmatched vocals, were their unique blend of alternative pop and synth rock (is that a genre? If not, I’m taking credit for that term). And while we get glimpses of that creativity and passion throughout the album, I’m stuck wondering what changed.

It’s not a bad piece of music. “Quarter Past Midnight” and “Doom Days” really capture that distinctive sound we’ve come to love. And yet, we’re left with moments that seem like disingenuous imitation. Or at the very least, an ode to Coldplay, especially in “Divide,” and even “Million Pieces,” which feels like 2014’s “A Sky Full Of Stars.”

I don’t mean that as an insult to Coldplay, as they’re an amazing band. But that sound is theirs. Often imitated, never duplicated.

Ordinarily, it seems that an album’s “radio plays” aren’t usually the best tracks. It takes some digging to unearth the truly heart-grabbing songs that’ll stick with you forever. Is “The Middle” the best track on Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American? Of course not. We all know it’s “A Praise Chorus.”

However, with Doom Days, the majority of the best tracks are the singles. “Quarter Past Midnight” (which was released over a year ago already), “Doom Days,” and “Joy” were the first three singles, and very well might be the best three songs. That said, we also get the deep-cuts, like the heartfelt “4AM,” and the incredibly infectious “Another Place,” which is a strong contender for the top spot on this album.

It’s clear that there are far more hits on this album than misses. With a band as good as Bastille, it’s easy to get bummed when a track doesn’t capture you. There are very few perfect albums in this world, and this one does a lot right. I have a feeling Doom Days will get richer as it ages.

And who knows. Maybe this actually is the perfect soundtrack for a house party, as was intended. Anyone with a social life can feel free to let me know when they find out. Until then…

7/10

Hits: Another Place, Quarter Past Midnight, Doom Days, Joy, 4AM

Misses: The Waves, Divide, Nocturnal Creatures

Featured image taken from Bastille – Those Nights  via BASTILLEvideos.

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