Hearing Wild Beasts for the first time is an odd and sometimes challenging experience for most. The oddity that oozes forth is abundant, yet theirs is a style and form which doesn't stray anywhere close to purposely 'wacky'. Vocalist Hayden Thorpe's switches from falsetto to gravelly growl in the blink of an eye, whilst spewing forth Morrissey-esque tales.
We came very much down on the side of "love them" for their debut record Limbo, Panto and now we've got a sneaky preview to see if their follow-up, Two Dancers, delivers on the early promise...
'The Fun Powder Plot'
A long drone and nothing else kicks things off. Bass-groovin' joins, followed by a woodblock - they used one in their last album, too. A minute-and-a-half of subtle build up before Hayden Thorpe's unmistakable tones are introduced and it's pure Wild Beasts. But what has happened to them? What HAVE they been smoking? A relaxant, sure, but one which has also seen a flood of juices creative spill onto this record. Is that a TENORI-ON?!
'Hooting & Howling'
This is erotica. Nothing else. It's not quite lust, yet not love. Either way, it's dirty, dirty music. Two songs in and still no full-on growling from Mr Thorpe. This guitar sounds like it's been recorded underwater, aptly enough if you happen to have seen the video. How clean is the production?! It's completely spotless, not a speck. Production by Dettol. The Beasts are practically making love to their instruments here, at the same time inviting you to make love to each other and everyone involved - an indie music daisy-chain, if you will.
'All The King's Men'
Lead vocal duties moved over to bassist Tom Fleming who, as you may or may not know, is a bit of a crooner. The sort of voice where you imagine a wink and a flick of the hair after every line. Yeah, sleazy. His voice reminds me of Gary Kemp. Come to think of it, so far this record has reminded me of Spandau Ballet, is it the style of percussion? Is it the lack of rawness? It may even be the guitar tone...
'When I'm Sleepy'
More erotica. “When I'm sleepy, eating supper / you're the lips for me to pucker” is sung in the most sensual manner possible. It would border on disturbing if done in the wrong way but that doesn't appear to be something which is applying to Wild Beasts all that much. Another cut from Two Dancers which manages to sound very little like anything else from the last 15 years.
'We've Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues'
This track screams “cha-cha-cha!”. Not actually, but it definitely invites more than the vigorous odd foot tap and gyration, which is a small but significant departure from what we've heard so far, which has been nothing but slo-mo. Lovely offbeat bongo and stick hit combo. More of this kind of thing, please. Cresting at the first chorus, this is four-and-a-half minutes of ups and downs. Thorpe manages to be both operatic and messianic throughout. Five tracks in and I'm prematurely pencilling this in the scribbled albums of the year list.
This starts with an almost post-rock ambience – stacks and stacks of reverb, sparse tub-thumping, angrily distorted guitars in the background. Dynamics are one thing which Wild Beasts have absolutely NAILED on this record. They were pretty well done on Limbo, Panto but this transcends any previous greatness and surpasses that early promise. A melody floats throughout the four minutes, drums tick and tock, but the hollow feeling and vastness of this one is something that cannot be escaped as it grows into a monster of howls, tribal bangs and cymbals a-chinking.
'Two Dancers II'
Clearly more into post-rock than we thought, with a second part directly succeeding the first, although the second serves the purpose of a coda, technically speaking. The Beasts' attempt at a persistent dreamlike quality continues in earnest.
'This Is Our Lot'
Providing the funkiest moment to date, the bass nearly manages to overpower those luscious guitars for the first time. Still we wait for rawness, and really, it doesn't seem like we'll get any. Is it a bona-fide taming of the Beasts? Everything seems to have moved away from the adolescent energy encapsulated in older tracks like 'Assembly' and 'Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants' to the honed, toned muscular arrangements here. Muscular in that there's no fat. Throw your arms, head and hair back and join in the huffing and the panting.
Sounds like it's straight out of a musical – just Thorpe airing his thoughts with a piano to a gigantic hall before a more electronic tinkling comes in above a barely audible drone. It ends abruptly, violently throwing you out of the sub-conscious, serene zone in which you found yourself nestled for the previous two minutes.
'The Empty Nest'
Reverb scaled up to “empty Royal Albert Hall” for about the fifth time. This could soundtrack one hundred 70-year-olds ballroom dancing whilst stoned out of their wrinkly faces as part of a David Lynch film. Starting to think that maybe the album of the year talk wasn't that premature, after all. To suggest that Two Dancers may see Wild Beasts cross over into the filthy, filthy mainstream would be too much. Yet, if critical acclaim doesn't come pouring forth in a torrent, there is something seriously wrong.
Two Dancers is released on 3rd August through Domino. 'Hooting & Howling', the first single from the album is released on 20th July.