Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
by Kelly McClure
Wild Beasts is a different sort of band. They elude you, but once caught, it’s easy to get wrapped up. The first time I heard them was via a (now ex) girlfriend last spring, so naturally every note sounded like the prelude to an orgasm because, well, it kind of was, but I would listen obsessively, eventually buying their album Two Dancers (Domino, 2009) and putting it into heavy rotation. But then, much like with that particular relationship itself, I forgot. The sounds that planted roots, very emotional roots, in my life, were ripped up and dipped in salt, causing the band to become so foreign to me that upon first listen of their upcoming release Smother, I thought that I had mistakenly put the soundtrack to a Tim Burton film into my stereo and pressed play. Literally every line sung by the two main Beasts, Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming could have “blah blah blah THE PUMPKIN KING” tacked on to the end of it, and Danny Elfman would have a fair fight on his hands. But don’t mistake me, I love every minute of it.
I am, admittedly, not the most professional professional rock critic and will openly, and without reservation or shame, admit the sexual desires I have towards bands or members of bands. I will get swept away and swoon, with frequency, over bands and then think it’s a good idea to let them know about it, usually after I’ve interviewed them, and usually in the article that is the product of said interview. I’ve done no such thing with Wild Beasts, but when Fleming bursts through the middle of the first song on Smother, ‘Lion’s Share’, with “Boy whatcha running from?” I can’t help but want him to put one million of his babies inside of me. Fantastic music makes me into a slutty slut face and that’s fine. BETTER than fine, that’s what great music SHOULD do to a person, and Smother is a pantie-dropper for sure. This may sound crass for you sensitive readers, but if an album doesn’t make you want to fuck or fight, take it off and listen to something else.
Lead singer Thorpe showcases his countertenor voice here more than with the band’s first two albums, and the sparing use of Fleming’s masculine, throaty interjections makes them that much more effective. Where in Two Dancers the singers traded pretty evenly back and forth with Thorpe’s dramatic cooing leading right in to Fleming’s chest pounding, here Thorpe takes his time and stretches his legs from line to line, building the intensity and causing your emotions to wander all over the place so that by the time Fleming comes in, the release is felt in your muscles. Thorpe is the furrowed brow at the beginning of an altercation, and Fleming is the scream and breaking glass at the end of it.
“Whose butter fingers tear me like bread/Who’s dirty mouth would have me marry hell,” Thorpe sings on ‘End Come Too Soon’ at the close of the album. There’s just something about proper English men singing about dirty mouths, I swear.
Smother is out 9 May