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Wild Beasts – Two Dancers

January 23, 2011

Wild Beasts – Two Dancers [August 2009, Domino Records]

I present, for your consideration, the second album from art-rock-revival connoisseurs Wild Beasts entitled “Two Dancers”. After releasing a strong first album in 2008 (which itself received generally favourable reviews), the English lads are back, having honed their sound into a perfect mesh of duelling guitars and the unmissable powerful falsetto of the lead singer. If you haven’t heard this before, you’re in for a treat.
Wild Beasts – All The King’s Men

There is only one place to start when talking about Wild Beasts: the incredible vocals of Hayden Thorpe. Unsurprisingly, that’s where a fair few of their songs begin, and I think it is an inevitability the band has come to accept: Thorpe’s powerful vocals will be the centrepiece of the band, so there is no use in denying it. I got the feeling that on Limbo Panto, their debut, Wild Beasts either layered their songs so as to distract from the vocals, or focused songs around them entirely, but on Two Dancers they have found their balance, creating an atmosphere of restrained power, like.. they’ve got a big gun, but they don’t need to use it. The fantastic production effortlessly combines the natural-sounding guitar and smooth basslines with the luxurious vocals, with the two vocal harmonies complimenting the lead perfectly.

Thorpe’s vocal prowess is present none more so than on my favourite track from the album, “All The Kings Men”, a bittersweet tale of love and lusting after the local talent (“girls from Hounslow/girls from Whitby/you’re a candied queen/and let me show my darling what that means”), and on the latest single “We still got the taste dancing’ on our tongues” (why does this remind me of “Golden Brown“?).
Wild Beasts – We Still Got The Taste Dancing’ On Our Tongues

Wild Beasts are a great band. School friends Thorpe and guitarist/keyboardist Ben Little formed the band under the name Fauve (french for Wild Beast) in their final year of school, and having recruited bassist Tom Flemming and drummer Chris Talbot (both of whom provide backup vocals) have been writing, releasing and touring ever since. They’re now signed to the independent London based label Domino, home to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Four Tet, Franz Ferdinand and Bonnie Prince Billy. The lads hail from Kendal (yes, the Lake District!), England, a fact given away by more by their lyrics than their accents. The mature vocals remind me more of Morrisey than any of their contemporaries, but the lyrics give away their youth.
Wild Beasts – The Fun Powder Plot

They represent a great success of young British music, although until recently I thought they were still underachieving somewhat. Unbeknownst to me, they have sneaked into the public realm (according to last.fm, they have more listeners than our 2010 Album of the Year winners Everything Everything), a fact which i was rudely awakened to when trying to get into their headlining set at last Spring’s Great Escape festival in Brighton – the queue stretched half a mile down the road, and eventually we (and hundreds more) were turned away, unable to witness what is purported to be a fantastic live show.

Oh dear, I’ve gone and fallen into the trap of over-focusing on the vocals. I shouldn’t have done that. I really don’t believe the success of Two Dancers is completely dependant on the epicurean vocals, but Thorpe definitely is the focal point. Perhaps it is a curse, the way the band is unavoidably hinged on this factor.. or is it? In just a few short years Wild Beasts have grown as a band, their sound has matured and they know what they want to sound like, and where they want to be. They embrace their strengths and build with them, not around them, knowing when to hold back. They magnificently manage the ebb and flow of tension throughout the album like seasoned artists, and I’m constantly struck my the ease with which Wild Beasts manage to deliver their sound with the smoothness of a well aged Merlot. If they continue to mature at this pace, they’ll be mixing with the big boys in no time.

Wild Beasts – Hooting & Howling

By the way, if you don’t use last.fm – I highly recommend you give it a try. This is my page.

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