Review – Pompeii by Bastille

If you’ve in anyway been listening to music, you’ve surely heard Bastille’s smash hit “Pompeii”. This anthemic rock sound has captured the hearts and indeed, taken clubs across the country by storm. Seemingly, front man Dan Smith has found the perfect recipe for a catchy and immersive song that leaves the listener not only smiling, but also reaching for the repeat button again and again. One can understand the appeal; interesting lyrics, flowing analogies, some DIY interpretation for the listener and a great beat to dance along to.

The electric guitars heard are more and more seen as a necessary music instrument for creating an edgy electronic vibe; this Smith has pieced together quite well. It’s not only this, but the use of a wider range of instruments such as the snare drums to add the captivating rolling, thunderous beat in the lead up to the explosive chorus. Naturally, this was done not without some thought on Dan Smith’s part in making the connections with Mt Vesuvius rumbling, then erupting. It’s fair to say that Bastille has found the musical zeitgeist of pop and firmly locked on to it with “Pompeii”, but this does leave their other songs somewhat in the shadows.

Smith takes the listen on a lyrical journey, starting from innocence to a gradual degradation of the overall atmosphere, and then trying to resolve it. Some explanation is given, “lost in our vices” for example. Beautifully open to interpretation, but most would see the relationship metaphor with “walls kept tumbling down” and “how am I gonna be an optimist about this?”. With Smith going on to highlight how closing one’s eyes can ignore the situation and pretend nothing has changed. It’s this sort of lyrical construction that leaves the listener so immersed and engaged.

As the tempo slows, Smith asks “where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?”, a veritable philosophical conundrum yet adding another nugget of gold into the song. Depending on how it’s listened to, and it’s not taken at face value of a dance song, the song takes on a more melancholic and dark tone, as if all is left is memories and reminiscing. The music video does a good job of that for sure. For cheering up, the big hitter of the song is surely the grandiose choral backing that enchants the listener and can only build upon excitement.

Dan Smith and his band Bastille have produced a brilliant and memorable song. The tone, lyrics and style reflect the creativity and intelligence of Smith wonderfully, and are sure to leave the listener with a lasting smile after hearing.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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