Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Present Tense

Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Present Tense
Record Label: Domino

On their 4th full- length Wild Beasts slip into the modern era with full- hearts and a gorgeous synth- heavy sound

There are few bands who have really managed to capture the attention of sects of the alternative music press quite like Kendal- via- London quartet Wild Beasts over the last few years or so, and with good reason. Their spectral, fractious yet succulent art- rock fused with their (un) healthy obessesion with the most fleshy and naturalistic of human rituals has seen them carve a void the size of the Grand Canyon through rival groups of music fans. In the 21st century that void is appreciated and acknowledged more than ever before, and it's exactly that enhanced version of time and understanding that Wild Beasts make their raison d'etre on 'Present Tense', their 4th full- length. 

A bit like Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells wonderful 'Everything's Getting Older' a few years back, 'Present Tense' is an album that finds itself completely entangled within the confounding rush and speed of modernity. That's not to say that it's an entirely different aesthetic or dynamic to what the band have done before. However, this new understanding of the ever- more electronically- deviated age, although dabbled in on 2011's 'Smother', is cemented on 'Present Tense.' Guitars are largely a rare occurance in favour of enormous, cinematic and layered synth swells, sometimes reaching greater heights than the band have ever done before. 

Opening track and lead- off single 'Wanderlust' is one of the finest examples of this. The lyrics adhere to both a new found political reference ("they're solemn in their wealth, we're high in our poverty") as well as their typically seedy fervour ("don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck/ in your mother tongue, what's the verb 'to suck?'') but it's the meandering, glorious synth arpeggio rises that give the track the feeling of standing on mountains. 

The following track 'Nature Boy' revels in the bolshy sense of humour that rocked 'All The King's Men' previously. "The things she said she'd never do/ a little fun for me and none for you" croons co- vocalist Tom Fleming righteously but it's the track's depth- ridden and dark, layered bleepery that assures it comes across as an off- cut from the darker recesses of Depeche Mode's catalogue. 'Mecca' returns to the succulent heights of the opening track as a gorgeous faded-in-and-out synth groove leads proceedings and Hayden Thorpe brings his deeply philosophical touch to the motion as he sings "we move in fear, we move in desire". A glacial guitar solo brings the track to a close statically but beautifully. 

'Daughters' manages to be one of the most sociological and sobering things the band have ever done. It stares into the future and a dystopian, Harry Brown- esque bleakness stares back as both Thorpe and Fleming assert "all the pretty children sharpening their blades, when my daughter passes only ruins remain". 

It's not all so futuristic; the lovelorn piano balladry of 'Pregnant Pause' and the subtle, late summer evening funk of 'Past Perfect' would fit nicely into the mould of the second half of 2009's 'Two Dancers', but they work just as well within the context of 'Present Tense'. 

The penultimate track, 'New Life', in all its gorgeous, engulfing Oneohtrix Point Never haze seems to be the assertion of a new way of not only thinking, but operating and indeed living. So indeed, 'Present Tense' does not present a total reversion of dynamic for the band; it rather finds them adapting to their modern surroundings and fitting in seamlessly. Wild Beasts have never been a band incapable of capturing the wondrous, and on 'Present Tense' they slide into their new mentality with effortless brilliance. 


Key Tracks: Daughters, Mecca, New Life
For Fans Of: Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Foals

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