Wild Beasts | Two Dancers
Most Likely To: make you want to wear fancy clothes.
Wild Beasts are in the business of drama. Big, unrestrained drama. If Alan Cumming and Oscar Wilde had a baby, and that baby was a band, it would be Wild Beasts. If Wild Beasts were a cocktail, they would be served exclusively to roguish ne’er-do-wells and consist of equal parts absinthe, Kate Bush, smoking jackets, The Associates, flamboyant trousers, Neil Tennant, Merchant-Ivory, Final Fantasy, and clove cigarettes.
I went heavy on the analogies because, like any genuinely creative and boundary pushing band, Wild Beasts defy description or categorization. Any person already familiar with the art-pop majesty of the band’s debut, Limbo, Panto, probably has their own way of depicting it, but the word ‘dramatic’ would be hard to avoid (positively or pejoratively). On their follow-up, Two Dancers, the band continues in the same vein with a multi-layered pop sound, driven by sharp percussion, sprinkled with chiming guitars, and pasted with Hayden Thorpe’s remarkable falsetto. And it is his occasionally off-putting shrill that may prove to be a deal breaker for the less adventurous.
It should be noted that, with or without Thorpe on the mic, the music of Wild Beasts is eminently listenable. Rich with melodic keys, percussive drumming, and guitar work that perfectly compliments the mood and texture of each track, Two Dancers would fit nicely into the collection of anyone who simply likes good, well produced music. It is Thorpe’s voice and lyrics that define the Wild Beasts sound, though (even when he takes a back seat to guitarist Tom Fleming’s vocals on a handful of tracks) and it takes some getting used to. If you allow yourself the time to get acclimated to it, you will find that it is the perfect vehicle to deliver the ten rich and animated tales on Two Dancers.
To delve too deeply into Thorpe’s lyrics would be on par to giving away the plot to a long-anticipated drama. Each song could stand alone as a one-act play, with lines that are as pictorial in their story telling as any put to hard drive in recent years. Thorpe can be accused of being lyrically dense and forcing melodrama, but lines like, “By smirking prank of fate, we find ourselves dancing late, like young reprobates…” paint such vivid imagery that he can and should be forgiven. In fact, I found myself replaying tracks just so I could complete the picture he was painting in my mind.
While not a grand departure, Two Dancers marks a maturation in Wild Beasts’ sound and an ever-so-slight tempering of the debut record’s excesses. It is an album that is both bold and nuanced and well worth the ten-spot for anyone who enjoys well-written and executed music or is simply feeling a bit drama deficient.
Listen to “All the King’s Men” from Wild Beasts: