Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino Records)
May 6, 2011 by Tshepo Mokoena
There’s something so dexterous about Wild Beasts. They can slither along a wet-slicked alley of salacious sleaze to the rollicking world of rebellious teen yobs with such ease. And that’s only in their first two records. The sexually-charged growls and whispers of debut Limbo, Panto have somewhat matured and mellowed on Smother. The same can be said for the insistent tempo and urgency of 2009′s Two Dancers. Now it looks as though the four boys from Kendal are channeling all that sexual energy and teen-like aggression into the dulcet tones of this latest offering.
Smother stands out as their strongest record for the cat-and-mouse game it urges you to play. Hayden Thorpe’s trademark falsetto has gone all coquettish on us, more like the fluttering lashes of a flirt than the groping clutch of of the one who sang “with wantingly wet mouth I suck. Remind me of your gentle fuck”. Well. Subtlety is key now, with single ‘Albatross’ hinting at the softer approach coming from all sections of the band and production team. Echoey tom-tom drums resound in the open spaces left where guitars would’ve rung out a few years ago, or Tom Fleming’s tenor rumbled.
Any listeners looking for the uptempo head boppers of their earlier work will have to contend with the slow build of ‘Loop The Loop’ and delightful ‘Reach A Bit Further’ for their speed fix. Stand out track ‘Bed Of Nails’ marries syncopated drum rhythms with a jittery bassline to hypnotic effect too; it ticks the danceable box for those not quite ready to accept the newer Wild Beasts. Overall this record rolls and dips at a steadier pace however, inviting a closer listen to lyrics on sexual tension, quiet rebirth and a near-violent lust. In typical fashion, Thorpe and Fleming share vocal duties to display their strengths and give the album the breadth that most have come to expect from the band by this stage.
A darker offering than its predecessors, Smother is aptly named and wonderfully executed. Wild Beasts are showing us their range in a way that is fearless, intimate and will win the hearts of those looking for a record that smoulders. Contender for one of the top albums of the year? It’s early days yet, but let’s not rule anything out.