Things that push toward the boundary of the ridiculous and somehow do not become ridiculous are worth, at the least, a second glance. Wild Beasts’ debut record is worth more than that. I am not willing to forward an estimate on how many glances it is worth—that would, in fact, be quite stupid, at the least impertinent. So, these guys are young and it is nice to hear a young band from Britain that doesn’t make me want to leave the room, leave the bar, smash the sound source, etc…
I don’t really like the majority of young English bands these days. A matter of fact. From what I hear, living over here on this island on the right side of the Atlantic, I gather that they are for the most part homogenous little quartets of boys with guitars who—yes, yes, yes—wear laughably skinny jeans and want to be on the cover of NME before they are swiftly, and carelessly, forgotten.
I would prefer not to know of them and therefore not have to forget them.
At the least, I have forgotten their names and therefore do not feel compelled to name names. And, anyway, I am one for laudatory criticism. Especially now. There are so many records coming out, good records, that I can only wonder at the psychological makeup of the type who would rather waste his (or her) time condemning instead of examining what is examinable about the large number of records that are worth wasting one’s time writing about. Like, for example, Wild Beasts.
These guys (four boys, lest one say that I am biased against all-male groups—which I am) have got something going on. They are pretty damn weird (mostly because Hayden Thorpe sings in a histrionic falsetto that bathes everything in an androgynously sublime light) and also, somehow, easy to listen to, pleasant on the ears, monstrous in all the most delicious ways, let’s say. They have definitely, already on their debut, settled into a sound all their own. “Devil’s Crayon,” a song on which bassist Tom Flemming handles the lead vocal duties (though Thorpe shows up for the chorus) is centered around a chiming, rhythmical guitar figure—the kind that somehow manages to fit a thousand sunny days into its paws—and balances mild freak outs with a steady, enduring sense of wonder inspired by, perhaps, the devil’s favorite crayon. “And we are so many tiny pieces” is something that could be sung in a number of ways, many of which I imagine would be stupefying—but here it works, as they say, wonders.
“Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants” is the other killer track here, as the title would suggest. A bouncy bass line that I considered asking Prins Thomas to beef up for the dance floor (the living can dance to it without the beef, but what the hell, why not?) is omnipresent. And, thankfully, mercifully, the title is the chorus refrain. Fantastic. And the coda harmony is a hook that I will bite time and time again, no matter the unforeseen suffering which may entail. Beyond that we have some enchantingly titled bookends, by name, “Vigil for a Fuddy Duddy” and “Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio Goodbye,” an elegiac and wistful song to set sail to if ever there was one. And, thankfully, mercifully, the title is, again, the chorus refrain.
So, this stuff gets pretty effete sometimes, which is perfectly fine by me, and musically, structure-wise, it is continuously engaging and engagingly exploratory. The Beasts aren’t wild in any sense but the best—untamed by the boredom of the indie-boom, they are set to imprint themselves into their very own iconoclastic position in the margins.