Photo Credit: Polydor Records/Universal Music Group
When the word “future” appears in not only a record’s title but in that of three – count ‘em three – of the songs contained therein, it’s probably a safe bet that what we’re about to hear will end up being a concept album with a science fiction theme. That is indeed the case with Bastille’s fourth full-length release, Give Me the Future. The loose narrative which makes up the record, however, seems to be one of not so much the future, but rather cyberspace, and the notion of using it as an escape from the everyday. Or, as the lyrics tell us in the overture-like opening track “Distorted Light Beam”: “Feeling like, this is the life // I’m choosing fiction // When I’m dreaming tonight, I can do anything… // I can go anywhere… // I can be anyone.”
The internet has been in general use for around a quarter-century, and for at least as long people have had the longing to lose themselves in cyberspace. To get even more specific, what is being described in this Bastille song sounds quite a bit like the premise of Ready Player One, the 2011 novel by Ernest Kline which was then made into a successful movie. The similarity gets even stronger with the abundant name-dropping of numerous sci-fi entities (the works of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Phillip K. Dick among others) on the album, mainly on the cut “Back to the Future” (and there’s one more name-drop right there). But we’ll get back to all that.
Musically at least, Bastille’s Give Me the Future is a strong and solid effort, a throwback (ironically enough) to ’80s new wave bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and the Fixx (and, staying a bit more recent, the Killers), as well as just a hint of Prince in his heyday. But as with surfing the internet, there’s a surprise around many corners, including a classic rock riff on “Shut Off the Light”, a nice piano interlude, and some obvious Motown influence on “No Bad Days.” Then there’s also “Club 57”, the album’s most uptempo track, which adopts its sound from Foster the People along with just a hint of ’60s pop.
A few moments on the album – music, and lyrics – do come off as just a bit odd. There’s a brief orchestral string section instrumental which is pleasant enough but seems only connected to the rest of the album by its title (“Brave New World”), as well as a spoken-word track featuring British rapper Rizwan Ahmed. And on an album full of science fiction references, they go and do a song about… Thelma & Louise? (But wait, That 1991 movie had the same director as Alien and Blade Runner. Could this be what they were trying to convey?).
The album is bound to draw comparisons to other rock concept albums about the future and/or technology, such as Radiohead’s OK Computer, Rush’s 2112, or even the Who’s never-fully-realized Lifehouse. Still, concept album or not, Give Me the Future is at the very least a considerable improvement over Bastille’s last effort, the mundane and generic Dark Days. It’s impossible to say what the future holds for this band, but with this album, they’re definitely hitting all the right buttons in the present.