Artist: Wild Beasts
Release Date: 9/5/2011
What's normal is different to different people. Hayden Thorpe, the flutter- voiced tenor with Kendal four-piece Wild Beasts can claim that his band makes "normal" music all he wants, but let's face it... Oasis fans are never going to agree with him. But in a world where normality in music means three-chord sequences, mundane attempts at euphoria and starkly obvious lyrics, the existence of bands such as Wild Beasts is ever more vital. As one of the most unique and creative prospects of their time, the band never cease to conjure up the most magical and sensual soundscapes, and third album "Smother" is no different.
The sexual tension is barely kept at bay throughout. It throbs and crawls beneath the surface, a dark and desperate need. It seems the band lock arms and intensify, creating something dark, tempting, uncomfortably erotic at times, but all the while claustrophobic and stomach- churningly awkward. The band's 2009 album "Two Dancers" was more of a fun play-a-long muscially, but "Smother" sees the band reach out and tingle all senses. Sonically it's a slower- burning record, but that just adds to the intensity.
Opener "Lion's Share" has a throbbing electronic underline and a chilling piano overture whilst Thorpe intones menacingly "I wait until you're woozy/ I lay low until you're lame/ I take you in the mouth like a lion takes his game." Straight away you feel like you shouldn't be there, as if you're watching some dark and sinister ritual, but that's what's so beautiful about "Smother." The feeling of impassioned sexual darkness is summed up in the album's highlight "Plaything." A pulsating, almost tribal beat ripples through, before it is joined by a sparkling, cold synth- line and Thorpe singing "New squeeze/ Take off your chemise/ And I'll do as I please". This is turning to sex when times are dark and desperate, hoping to find five minutes of solace, but failing to conjure the hoped relief.
The sense of loss is kept throughout, most notably in the tear- jerkingly sad "Deeper," it's mournful tone and the vulnerability of Tom Fleming's vocals bringing that quivering sense of loss to the forefront in the most heart- clenching fashion. Some of the musical playfulness of "Two Dancers" is present and correct here still. "Bed of Nails" carries a Caribou- esque electronic rattle. "Reach a bit further" is a brilliantly percussive, almost dance-able offering, whilst the more subtle "Loop The Loop" wouldn't have been too far out of place on the second half of "Two Dancers."
Wild Beasts have created a masterpiece. In a way, it feels like the album they were always supposed to make. All the playfulness and eccentricity of their previous works have lead to what "Smother" is; A stunningly beautiful, near- perfect and tragic journal of when things go wrong.
(Sidenote: I would just like to thank my dear friend Evangeline for contributing this part of the review: "The sexual tension is barely kept at bay throughout. It throbs and crawls beneath the surface, a dark and desperate need.")