Smother 4/5 This Kendal quartet are notable for two defining features: Hayden Thorpe’s haughty falsetto (we imagine him trussed up in tights and velveteen circa the fashion of 1579, although live shows have revealed a rather more mundane 2011 sartorial sense), and his rather suggestive lyricisms. Their Mercury-nominated 2009 album, Two Dancers, featured such oft-quoted lines as ‘girls astride me, girls beneath me’ before calling them ‘birthing machines’ on the buoyant ‘All The King’s Men’. Some say blowsy and overblown, we say evocative and theatrical, and on this follow-up the frisson of their verse is more subtle, but quite palpable.
It’s a more mellow album than their last, and each song pulses with a slow-burn sensuality, from ‘Invisible’ with its muted French horns, trademark mellifluous guitars and high-fret bass manoeuvrings, to ‘Plaything’ and ‘Deeper’, both unabashedly sensual (‘You plug the yawning void’). On ‘Bed of Nails’, Thorpe quavers saucily: ‘I want my lips to blister when we kiss,’ before name-dropping Ophelia and drawing parallels between a horizontal rendezvous and Frankenstein.
Wild Beasts certainly don’t bother with mundane, kitchen-sink quandaries. Although his falsetto remains a divisive force and ‘Burning’ a go-nowhere track with rippling autoharp, there’s no denying Wild Beasts’ lyrical eloquence and musical elegance are captured here with crisp clarity. It’s flamboyantly delivered escapism cocooned in a sound that’s defiantly all their own.