These affable Wild Beasts of Kendal,
England, have dangled in relative obscurity awhile, ensnared by their own
eccentricities and perversions – but looking at that flimsy obstacle now, in
the light of sophomore album Two Dancers (Domino)
… nah, that ain’t gonna hold. Whatever estranged potential listeners before –
the incredibly peculiar caw of Hayden Thorpe, the dusty theatricality, or the
sticky feeling of lust all over 2008’s Limbo,
Panto – well, it’s all still there. But, Potential Listener, it is a mere
context, an affectation, thin and brittle as the sugarcap on crème brulée, and
you will be severely missing out if you don’t tap and break through to the
heart of Two Dancers.
Because because because: because they’ve kept and refined their pretty ways, their
guitars that whirr and interlock, cymbals hammering bright and clean, and the
lyrical oil that drips through all the workings.
Panto‘s “The Devil’s Crayon” was
really its only track that dazzled from within a standard pop structure, this
album casts out hook after hook after hook, with their various weirdnesses
hanging ornamentally from the beats; a giant’s mumbly harmony here, a MIDI harp
there. And yes, those words. Like only a few artists before them (Parenthetical
Girls and Joanna Newsom coming immediately to mind), Wild Beasts seem to fit
quite snugly in that Venn-diagram overlap between lyric and bona fide poetry.
(And would likely be the first to acknowledge that overlap’s looking sorta like
When Thorpe whips out his syllables it is
the very opposite of speaking in tongues; it sounds like pure, rhythmic
gibberish but turns out to be words, like in the effervescent “Hooting and
Howling”: “a crude art, a bov-ver boot bal-let / equal-ly eleg-ant and ug-ly”.
Count in the smattered archaisms of fisticuffs and being “bereft of a coffin-bearer“, and it’s like dirty old J. Joyce is
alive and well and singing in an indie band.
And lest this sounds too frivolous, lines
like “this is a booty call / my boot, my
boot, my boot, my boot, your asshole” aside – there are moments of real,
liquid beauty here. Half that beauty drains directly to the sinkhole of “Two
Dancers (i)”, one of those rare love-at-first-listen tracks: equal parts tense
and tender, with drums that thump ‘n’ drive, and great swathes of guitar almost
like fallout from Explosions in the Sky. It drives us out to the end of the
critic’s Earth, where our words fail and fall. We must instead stand here
tongue-tied and impotent, watching that infernal Thorpe and his companions keep
on scrawling quips and quavers out into the stars. As he squalls in the closing
“Empty Nest”: “going, going gone” –
leaving us to end our commentaries with, what? What words are there? James
Joyce would know.
But will I recommend this charming thing to
you? Yes I said yes I will Yes.
Tracks: “Hooting And Howling,” “All the King’s Men,”
“Two Dancers (i)” MERYL TRUSSLER