Wild Beasts
Two Dancers


4.5
superb

Review

by James Lachno USER (3 Reviews)
September 23rd, 2009 | 51 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Genuinely different sounding album from exciting English band hits the mark

It seems to be increasingly rare these days that you come across something wilfully different that doesn't smack of some conceited behind the scenes fabrication. Instead of the organically original coming to the fore, one gets the impression that instead overpaid men in suits work out some kind of random formula for passing off garbage as new and exciting, like Simon Cowell plotting a reggae-death metal mash up sung by a Romanian asylum seeker (Susan Boyle anyone?). Or bands trying to sound as wacky as possible in lieu of having any noteworthy talent, whilst music critics positively salivate over the brilliant ingenuity (see New Rave circa 2007). Thankfully, this is one of those satisfying occasions where a band makes you genuinely sit up and think: "oh...yeh... this really is kind of... INTERESTING".

This may well be precisely Wild Beasts’ intentions. Clearly they are not terribly interested in creating music for the masses, but are instead aiming for that oh so elusive golden Pegasus of music: to sound something approaching, (whisper it), ‘unique’. Perhaps in keeping with this, the constituent parts of Two Dancers don’t always seem particularly enticing. For instance, opening track ‘The Fun Powder Plot’ is a mess of falsetto vocals; bizarre lyrical turns; Krautrock-esque metronomic drumming, and a song structure that seems to consist of a series of bridges one after another. Much of the rest of the record treads a similar path, which is sure to leave some listeners bewildered by their first impressions.
However, most would agree that much of the best the music world offers is not built on the foundation of familiar immediacy – this is best left to Lady Gaga, right? Two Dancers serves as case in point. As the listener’s ears attune to the din it crystallises: Vocals that might have seemed pretentious become passionately theatrical, and memorable choruses subtly emerge from tracks such as ‘We Still Got the Taste Dancing on our Tongues’. Furthermore, lyrics like “Any rival who goes for our girls will be left thumb sucking in terror and bereft of all coffin bearers” from ‘Hooting and Howling’, which might have at first appeared at best nonsensical and at worst juvenile, suddenly sound great: darkly sexual and yet playful all the same. Oddball tracks such as “Underbelly”, featuring what sounds like a tubular bells solo of all things, seem quirky without being gratuitously so. With each repeated listen the record as a whole appears more enthralling, more composed, and more nuanced, evidencing a beyond-their-years (all members are in their early twenties) songwriting maturity.

Yet even with the familiarity afforded by further exploration of Two Dancers, it maintains an uncommon mystique. The listener might pick up the odd chord bearing a likeness to the prog-indie stylings of the Mystery Jets’ first record, or notice a nod to Berlin Trilogy-era Bowie, but these are fleeting enough as if to be coincidence. As if to emphasise the lack of a clear blueprint for Wild Beasts’ music, the closest the vocals come to anything recognisable is an occasional approximation of Kate Bush. Furthermore, Two Dancers does not fall into the common trap of equating originality with the rejection of musical instruments in favour of electronica; whilst the production stamp is heavy on the record, it still sounds like the music could be reduced to four blokes playing their instruments and singing.

That said, Wild Beasts can be slightly hamstrung by their own adherence to avoiding type. In their abandonment of most of the conventions of the ‘pop’ song, they have withdrawn from the more upbeat sound sometimes found on their debut record, best evidenced through single “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants”. Only “All the King’s Men” approaches something of a cheerful swagger, which, coupled with the aforementioned lyrics can leave Two Dancers feeling a little bit morose, like the great lost soundtrack to an Edgar Allan Poe short-story. In addition, no matter how beautifully sung, 38 minutes of almost unrelenting falsetto vocals can be a slight struggle, although Hayden Thorpe’s voice has enough variety to make this a minor criticism.

These minor niggles barely detract from the record. From the moment Two Dancers hits your ears it displays a peculiar, almost unnerving magnetic pull on the listener, at the same time eerie, disarming and uplifting, delivered in a manner which treads a fine line between menace and tongue-in-cheek flippancy. And all the while sounding quite unlike anything else around, reason alone to enjoy this excellent effort.


user ratings (130)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jonathan Kroening (4.5)
A double step dance in moonless alleys....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Ponton
Emeritus
September 23rd 2009


5804 Comments


Hmm, excellent review.

I don't listen to this type of music, but you certainly interested me. pos'd

Skimaskcheck
September 23rd 2009


2360 Comments


Just checked out Hooting And Howling, you're right, it was interesting. Might check out some more later, great review!

thepopscener
September 23rd 2009


5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks ppl - i'll try and take a peek at some of your reviews a bit later. p.s. this really is a top record.

Fugue
September 23rd 2009


7353 Comments


This actually got recommended to me by a friend not long ago but I still haven't got around to looking into it. This pretty much reminded me to do so. Excellent review as well.

barns
November 1st 2009


79 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I really rate this album, seeing as so much British music recently has been terrible, it's
really refreshing to have something like this released.

This is Our Lot is fantastic. Dumpling doesn't appear enough in band lyrics.

Laurence
December 5th 2009


7 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is my album of the year, it's really, really brilliant and very underappreciated. I really like your review, you sum up a lot of the reasons I like it so much. It's nice to have that unpretentious difference in a band. Their Juan's Basement session of a few songs off the album are great too - despite the production, they still sound great without.

Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


Message to all Wild Beasts fans. Their new single 'Albatross' is streaming here. =)

http://soundcloud.com/1ftp/wild-beasts-albatross

Personally, I didn't love it at first, two or three listens later; it's beautiful. The vocals are astounding. It's far more gentle then Two Dancers. (not to mention different)

If the entire album is like this, we are in for another critically praised album.

Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


MY DARLING, MY DUMPLING, MY PLUMP HEARTS 'A THUMPING!

You're very welcome. =)
I am equally as excited. I hope the best for these guys. I've seen them live twice and they've been nothing but gentlemen and professional musicians.

'Albatross' left me alien at first (I was expecting Two Dancers' esque songs) but the vocals are sooo much better.

Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


It's so dramatic, isn't it? Such a delicate song. I was worried that they lost their 'wham' you know, when Hayden growls but it's nice to hear him simply sing with Tom 'oohing' him on.

And you have to see them live if you get the chance. Tom gets so into it. In Two Dancers he bangs a cow bell and uses drum sticks on his guitar. He gets in the zone. =)


Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


I'm sure they will when they announce their US tour. (assuming that's where your from, I'm not sure.)



Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


Oh lovely, maybe they'll travel to Canada in their US tour, I dunno. I hope for you they will man. =) I personally love snow, but I can imagine getting tired of it.

I'd love to hear a song like The Devil's Crayon in Smother. They never revisited that sort of sound.



Steoandnoodles
March 3rd 2011


2832 Comments


Limbo, Panto? OOo, it's a tough one. It's very difficult to listen to and you might find Hayden's vocals to become irritating but you know, it's worth going for.

The Devil's Crayon is an obvious stand out, followed by His Grinning Skull and Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio Goodbye. But yeah man, I'd download it just to see what it's like and how they band have evolved.

It's an excellent album, but it's demanding. =)

Not sure if you've seen this too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vf6oNalJ_8

Steoandnoodles
March 4th 2011


2832 Comments


Let me know what you think. I find the album more enjoyable when I read the lyrics along with the song.

Steoandnoodles
March 6th 2011


2832 Comments


At least you have an idea now of how vastly they changed and managed to perfect themselves as a band. Hopefully Smother does this once more. =)

Steoandnoodles
March 6th 2011


2832 Comments


I wouldn't say my expectations are high but I certainly expect something different. =P

So, basically I'm keeping my mind open for whatever they throw at me; not expecting Two Dancers numero two. =)

Steoandnoodles
March 6th 2011


2832 Comments


I hope so. I really respect these guys and have liked all their work up to this point, I hope it continues. =)

Steoandnoodles
March 7th 2011


2832 Comments


I just re-listened to Limbo, Panto with lyrics in hand.
Such great little stories. =)

Steoandnoodles
March 9th 2011


2832 Comments


Yeah, though I like the story of Two Dancers (part 1)...it's pretty explicit if it means what I think it does.

Steoandnoodles
March 28th 2011


2832 Comments


Hey Potato, got something interesting for you. =)

http://www.nme.com/blog/index.php?blog=140&title=wild_beasts_smother_first_listen&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

Sounds like typical (or not so typical) Wild Beasts. Basically another inaccessible album for the listener to slave over for a couple of weeks 'till they get it. =)

DBlitz
March 28th 2011


1690 Comments


this album is coo



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