This Just In: Bastille Shock Us Out of Our Phone Screen Daze with “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???”

Bastille © Matt Cronin
Bastille © Matt Cronin
With new single ““WHAT YOU GONNA DO???”, multiplatinum band Bastille deliver a fuzz rock curveball to knock us off our social media blitz and make us pay attention.
Stream: “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” – Bastille

If you think you know Bastille, guess again. The stadium-bound pop rock outfit behind mega hits “Pompeii” and “Happier” are back, and they have their amps cranked to eleven. Enlisting the help of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, they’ve infused some “Song 2” crunch into their formula, birthing the ’90s alt radio banger “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???

The urgency of the title (all caps and three question marks? You have our attention!) bleeds into the first charging chords, dusting away any preconceptions you may have had about what makes a Bastille song. Gone are the polished production and synth-laden pop choruses, replaced instead with a punk sensibility that hasn’t charged through mainstream headphones since Warped Tour ceded its scene title to Coachella. Is it our first clue to the next sonic era for Bastille, or a complete red herring? Time will certainly tell, but right now it’s a lightning strike to the skull very much appreciated amid the current wave of moody, introspective quarantine pop.

“WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” – Bastille
Johnny’s on the A-train
Takin’ it the wrong way
Shiny on the surface
Rotten on the inside
Shake, rattle and roll,
you got control, got my attention

Make me tap and scroll,
you got control, got my attention

“WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” comes right as the dust settles on the band’s 2019 acclaimed third album Doom Days, which was billed as the final installment in a trilogy spanning the 8 years since their inception. From here, the quartet of Dan Smith, Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson, and Chris Wood embark through uncharted territory. If the squall of guitars and speaker-blasting energy are any indication, we’re in for quite the ride.

You got us listening, so what you gonna do?
Now what you gonna do with it?
You got us listening, so what you gonna do?
Now what you gonna do with it?
Make me paranoid, love me, hate me, fill the void
What you gonna do with it?

Quite literally, “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” is a wake up call.

Two decades into the new century have connected our species more than ever before thanks to the ever-present eye of the internet. Yet it simultaneously isolates us in digital bubbles, faces glued to glowing screens and physical interaction waning.

Sally’s never outside
Got a screen to hide behind
She says she’s happy on the inside
And got a lot of friends online.
Bastille © Matt Cronin
Bastille © Matt Cronin

Bastille © Matt Cronin
Bastille © Matt Cronin

Our timelines overflow with smiling faces and beckoning locales, oozing FOMO with every passing picture. But we all share a loneliness in consuming only our friends’ best days. We think they have it better than us, that they have the lives we crave. We all end up lacking.

The Big Brother George Orwell warned us about isn’t the looming eyes of a tyranical leader, but the screens that draw us into their unavoidable embrace. We can’t look away, even though giving in draws us deeper into a tech-addicted daze.

Shake, rattle and roll, you got control, got my attention
Make me tap and scroll, you got control, got my attention

There is a more immediate world, Bastille suggests. One of touch, of feeling, of lived experience. We just need to wake up to it. The thundering clang of capital “R” Rock is one way to get us there.

The accompanying video for “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” hammers home both the sense of omnipresent media and the isolating effect it can have. London-based British/Iranian animator Rezza lends their sizable talents to the screen, mashing up illustration, photography and live action to give a frenetic sense of bombardment. Satellites beam content of every medium into our pockets every minute of every day. The fact that many of us will watch the video and stream the song from our phones only reinforces that point. At the same time, we can float adrift without a lifeline, plugged in and tuned out. The video ends with Dan Smith’s cartoon avatar drifting toward a black hole in the endless vacuum of space, the clipped sounds of broadcast and radio giving way to static. Our attention is likewise consumed.

Now more than ever it feels like we’re living in the Doom Days Bastille prophesied only last year.

A global pandemic, civil unrest, and a rapidly declining planet push us further into the comfort of our screens. Maybe a firm shake is what we need to catapult us back into reality. If Bastille can turn their guitars into an emergency siren, it’s time for us to pay attention. What are you gonna do?

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:: stream/purchase “WYGD???” here ::
Stream: “WHAT YOU GONNA DO???” – Bastille

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Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Matt Cronin

:: More Bastille ::

The Glimmering Light of Our ‘Doom Days’: A Conversation with Bastille


Bastille Dissect the Anxiety and Euphoria of Modern Life on ‘Doom Days’

:: OUR TAKE ::

Bastille’s “Doom Days” Sets the Tone for an Apocalyptic Party Album


This Overwhelming, Cinematic, Fragile, Wild World with Bastille


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