Both artfully referential and assiduous in nature, Wild Beasts produced an exquisite slice of melodic and diaphanous music.


One of our picks for 2009, both me and Richie argued over reviewing it, so in the spirit of compromise and to tie in with the albums title, I published both reviews.


 

 

Wild Beasts – ‘Two Dancers’

Domino Records 2009, vinyl version tested.

 

Side 1.

1.    The Fun Powder Plot
2.    Hooting And Howling
3.    All The Kings Men
4.    When I’m Sleepy
5.    We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues

 

Side 2.

1.    Two Dancers (i)
2.    Two Dancers (ii)
3.    This Is Our Lot
4.    Underbelly
5.    Empty Nest

Here we go again another avidly besotted 80’s sounding indie band graces our lives, though this time they’ve really taken to their influences with a certain panache and romanticism.
The Wild Beasts take their name from the critically snide insult directed at the early 1900’s art movement of expressionists led by Matisse. Known as Les Fauves, which evidently was this bands first moniker, this loose group of painters used wild brush strokes and reactionary colour palates to abstract simple subjects, a reasonable rich fertile backdrop to take inspiration from.

Our Wild Beasts marry The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’, Altered Images fey rhythms and public school aspirations of English literature. A solid dose of poetic subjects via E M Forster and a shared ascetic at times with Bowie’s Modern Love period lends a cleverness to these four lads from Kendal that places them in the same bracket as British Sea Power for use of references.
Clever but not in a snooty way you can imagine that living on a council estate would throw up some interesting scenarios for boys who might actually be able to recite Latin. They use this to good effect on the record as the reek of prejudice and cheap drinks promotions waft from the stereo. It doesn’t help that Hayden Thorpe has such a high octave spanning falsetto that bullies would just love to strangle. This amazing voice overshadows everything and unfortunately puts the rest of the excellent musicianship and skill in the shade. When you hear it for yourself you’ll know exactly what I mean as it starts from a bass heavy Alison Moyet to Anthony Hegarty at his most theatrical. It passes through David Sylvian and Sparks’s Russell Mael, though not in that annoying Mika fashion.

Sharing the vocal duties is Tom Fleming who sounds a little more grounded and deadpan in comparison to his vocal Olympic partner. Tom has the Ian Curtis soul going on and does a more convincing job then the Editors ever did of nabbing it.
The music itself is pure cinema scope with reverb drenched delicate guitars and grand piano gravitas whilst the drums are delivered in an Adam and the Ants style bravado. They subtly add some dance beat rhythms which manage to drag you in, sophisticated in all the best ways.

On the track ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’ they come across as a more interesting version of early U2, they manage to get away with using the riff from ‘New Years Day’.
Opening track ‘The Fun Powder Plot’ is a glowing 80’s pastiche via The Smiths that features some well-welcomed space for the tune to move around in.
By far the best song on the album is ‘This Is Our Lot’, a moody shuffling dance track that features descriptive rolling lyrics and exquisite melodies. With lines such as “by smirking prank of fate, we find ourselves dancing late, like young reprobates” they do indie smart convincingly well.
This whole album has a preoccupation with dancing, which is referenced throughout, an analogy to that old snickering subject of sex and violence perhaps.

A thoroughly well produced and crafted LP that will grow on you over time, search elsewhere if you are only interested in instant gratification as this record will only award those who wait.
It’s my contender for one of the year’s best albums as I can see this being remembered in ten years, like some lost artefact.

Dominic Valvona

Review 2

This is the second release from the Leeds based quartet, which came out in August (I know, I have been little slow with reviewing this one – you and me both Richie).
This album sees them maturing their sound from their 2008 debut, ‘Limbo, Panto’. Whilst that affair was one of overblown pomp and melodrama, ‘Two Dancers’ is a much more restrained and understated listen.
There are fewer falsetto parts in the vocals (I found parts of their earlier work hard to listen to because of the overbearing and overpowering nature of the vocal style) and the instrumentation has a more ethereal and mysterious feel to it.
Lead singer Hayden Thorpe shares singing duties with Bassist Tom Fleming, which gives the record a subtle dynamic that the debut was missing.

The songs reveal themselves in layers and not in a big block of noise, making ‘Two Dancers’ immediately listenable. And as well as being laden with hooks of all kinds (Vocal; ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ and Guitar; ‘Hooting And Howling’) the album seems introspective when compared with its predecessor (some will say that this was the natural progression that the band had to take, me included).
Opening with the slow burning ‘The Fun Powder Plot’, which has the drumming of Chris Talbot creating a tribal feel to the track. Chiming guitars are layered amongst the bass and Thorpe’s crooning “My boot, my boot your asshole” as the layers meld together in the final parts of the song.

‘Hooting and Howling’ has an inauspicious beginning to it but before long the vocals become breathless and the music swirls around his unique voice. The track does this twice more, over the peaks and troughs before the main climax of peeling guitars and grooving rhythm.
This is something that is repeated throughout the album, blending layered guitars with a grooving rhythm to create a climax.
‘All The King’s Men’ continues the opening salvo. A song with a good time feel to it, which describes fantasies of women from various geographical locations, “Girls from Roedean, girls from Shipley…” in various positions “Girls Astride me, girls beneath me…”.
Proceedings take a seat during the subdued ‘When I’m Sleepy’ before perking up for ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’. This track again uses the chiming and ringing guitars to good effect and the rhythm has its groove back, with bass throbbing and drums rattleling it gives the song a feel of urgency.

The centerpiece of the album is the self titled two-part track ‘Two Dancers’. Part one has a feel of Editors to it, from the drumming in the chorus bridge to the monotone vocal style making it a one of the low points on an album of highs. Part two is an entirely different beast (excuse the pun). The short length of the track leaves listeners wanting more. At 2:38 it stops when it seems to be growing. It is a delicately crafted song and has an air of mystery to it.
‘This Is Our Lot’ brings the groove back to the recording and the falsetto makes a rare appearance.
‘Underbelly’ has a feel of the previous album to it and is a track that petters out and hardly does anything for the LP. ‘Empty Nest’ could almost be an Elbow track with added quirkiness to it. It suits the role as a closer, leaving the listener thinking where Wild Beasts may venture next with album #3.

In a way this is a massive step forward from ‘Limbo, Panto’, but I am left feeling that it relies too much on a small number of tracks. It is a very good listen, but it is lacking a certain something that the predecessor had, a feeling of being unique. On their debut they created a sound that was uniquely both Wild Beasts and thoroughly British sounding. ‘Two Dancers’ is lacking this.

Rich Ainger

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