Brave. Bulging. Buoyant. CLAIRVOYANTS!
"What's so wrong with just a little fun?
We still got the taste dancin' on our tongues."
Wild Beasts are an acclaimed English indie band currently signed to Domino Records. The group formed in Kendal
as a duo of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Hayden Thorpe and guitarist Benny Little. Taking their name from the Fauvism art movement of the early 20th century (fauve meaning "wild beast" in French), they relocated to the far less remote city of Leeds where they were eventually joined by fellow Cumbrians Chris Talbot (drums) and Tom Fleming (bass, vocals, multi-instrumentation).
From the beginning a lot of attention was drawn towards Thorpe's peculiar vocals - which can be best summed up as an operatic falsetto prone to becoming heavily strained and throaty - that initially led to the group being dismissed as Love It or Hate It
. However, the whimsical yet provocative nature of their songwriting, clean guitars and tight rhythm section received favourable comparisons to The Smiths
. After signing to Domino the band recorded their debut album, 2008's Limbo, Panto
with Franz Ferdinand
producer Tore Johannson, and was very much a showcase for these eccentricities.
They followed it up a year later with Two Dancers
, which toned down the erratic tendencies of their music by placing a stronger emphasis on rhythm, with their overall style becoming more and more inspired by Dream Pop
in the process. Thorpe's singing voice too became much more refined
whilst retaining his distinctive falsetto, and has began to share vocal duties with the lower-registered Tom Fleming
. Many hailed the record as a major improvement in quality
, as the album went on to receive rapturous acclaim as well as a Mercury Prize nomination in 2010 (which lost to former tourmates The xx, by the way).
Album number three Smother
(2011) stripped their sound down ever further, introducing hazy electronic textures
that often stray into Post-Rock
territory alongside a more introspective tone in subject matter. Once again the reception has been overwhemingly positive, and the band's switch to a synth-orientated sound led to a high-profile collaboration with Lady Gaga
, remixing her track "You & I" to much acclaim.
In 2014, the band announced the release of their fourth album Present Tense
, which compared to the relatively quick recording process of their previous work, took longer to gestate over a period of 18 months. Even more synthetic in nature than Smother
with guitars only used sparingly, the band opted for a more direct and in-your-face approach than its' precedessor, with the overall sound reminiscent of 80s' New Wave
combined with the trademark Wild Beasts touch. It also became their first to crack the top 10 album charts.
The band and their music provide examples of the following tropes:
- Bad Future: According to the band, "Daughters" is about one where children are resorting to hunt their elders in order to survive.
- Badass Baritone: Tom.
- Badass Beard: Again, Tom. However, Hayden grew a pretty impressive one during the Smother era.
- The Beautiful Game: The theme of "Woebegone Wanderers".
- Dark Reprise: Subverted with "Two Dancers (ii)", which is a Lighter and Softer reprise.
- Empty Nest: They have a song of the same name dedicated to the subject.
- Intercourse with You
- Long Title: The band were fond of these early on in their career, with examples including "Woebegone Wanderers", "Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants", "Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio, Goodbye" and "We Still Got the Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues". This trope was eventually phased out by their third album as their lyrics became more straightforward, in which they were dropped in favour of one word titles.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "His Grinning Skull" is about a dead soldier's fiancee in mourning, only to reveal at the end that she's been having an affair the whole time.
- The Quiet One: Guitarist Benny Little is the only member who hasn't sung on any of their records.
- Precision F-Strike: An epic one in "Wanderlust".
- Shout-Out: To Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on "Bed of Nails".
- "Nature Boy" borrows its' title from the ringname of professional wrestler Ric Flair (which in turn was pinched from the late Buddy Rogers), whilst the line "a little fun for me and none for you" is lifted directly from an interview with wrestler Jake 'The Snake' Roberts.
- Soprano and Gravel: Thorpe and Fleming's respective vocal styles, though they actually subvert this on the track "All the King's Men", where its' Hayden who hums the deeper notes whilst Tom provides the high-pitched 'Watch me!/Hatch me!'.
- Take That: The line "In your mother tongue, what's the verb to suck?" from "Wanderlust" is a swipe at British bands that sing in American accents. This was misinterpreted in an interview with Pitchfork as a scatching attack towards label mates Arctic Monkeys, whose sound (not lyrics, as many had came to assume) had become increasingly inspired by American rock.
- Unusual Euphemism: The "birthing machines" from "All the King's Men". Also, "The Devil's Crayon", anyone?
- Vocal Evolution: And how!
- Word Salad Lyrics: They have quite a fanciful ways with words, to say the least, particularly during the Limbo, Panto era.