tue 21/05/2024

CD: Wild Beasts - Present Tense | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Wild Beasts - Present Tense

CD: Wild Beasts - Present Tense

British indie band threatens to break through with sumptuously crafted observational noir

Wild Beasts, not just for beard-strokers

In a fairly dry climate for original new music Wild Beasts have for the past six years been an oasis of fascination. With this, the Kendal schoolmates’ fourth album, their impeccable indie credentials, including an eclectic musical palette, gnomically allusive lyrics, an authentic quirky northernness, and Pulpishly progressive social attitudes, have drawn such an audience that a mainstream breakthrough threatens.

The songs’ subject matter, including wrestling and dogs, is endearingly left-field. Any indie band worth the name has to have an odd-sounding singer, but Wild Beasts have two. Hayden Thorpe’s eerie falsetto and Tom Fleming’s grizzly growl permeate the sound ominously.

Fleming has claimed that the band wanted to "repel the beards a little bit" with this album, its fan club sporting, apparently, more hip-cut bristle than a Hackney barber’s waiting room. Up to a point. While the electronic instrumentation often has a more direct melodic attack than that of the previous three guitar-led albums, it’s used in a self-consciously arty way, often led by the lyrics, much like the acoustic instruments on previous albums. There are irresistible dance-like riffs, and an irrepressible bouncing energy on “Mecca” and “A Simple Beautiful Truth”, but the beard-strokers will still find it a suitable accompaniment to their pastime, though they’ll likely be joined by more mainstream fans than they were for previous albums.

Occasionally the lyrics suffer from a touch of archness – does anyone outside a sitcom refer to “your lady wife”? – but most of them are dense, nuanced and suggestive, their onion-layers of bleak, sour flavour (these tend not to be feel-good pieces) repaying repeated hearings. Yet despite the lyrical desperation in these fascinating vignettes of life on the edge, the visceral loveliness of many of these tracks is overwhelming. The cathartic satisfaction the audience enjoys despite the misery on display is an unfailing criterion of artistic quality.  

Any indie band worth the name has to have an odd-sounding singer, but Wild Beasts have two


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters