Review Summary: Album #4, electro-pop's the drink of the day and Wild Beasts are determined to be difficult.
Eight years and four album's on, the absurd conclusion that Wild Beasts must enjoy their relative obscurity doesn't seem so alien. The band have always dived for all the twists and surprises available within the four straight walls of indie pop, and here more than ever they're shown chucking in absurdities from the furthest corner. "They're solemn in their wealth, we're high on our poverty/ We see the things they never see."
Now I might be a humble Sputnik contributor, but thems be fighting words.
is album number four, electro pop's the drink of the day and Wild Beasts are determined to be difficult: the move waves goodbye to the guitar progressions offering an easy way in to previous effort Smother and any replacements are only sure to alienate further. Disjointed, awkward tempos and drawn out keyboard washes not being best known for winning crowds, after all.
The Wild Beast mainstays are still firmly in place however, though find themselves used differently here. Hayden Thorpe's distinctively sweet voice sticks to its seductive, broody lows for a much more satisfying portion of the album and the band's penchant for jaunty rhythms has the familiar habit of kicking off and the much more unfamiliar one of immediately crashing to a spluttering, almost sadistic halt. "A Dog's Life" being the prime example of a song doing its best to be a nuisance and being frustratingly excellent to boot.
Despite this, the majority of the album's second half sees Wild Beasts allow themselves to relax to a more predictable and immediately enjoyable pace. Songs like "Past Perfect" and "A Simple Beautiful Truth" bring back the guitar loops and excitable chorus' for powerful mellow and off-beat affect. Similarly, Present Tense
showcases plenty of slow mood pieces drifting somewhere not too far from ballads, though perhaps a little closer to the band's own brand of pursed-lip sincerity. "Pregnant Pause" manages to exemplify this, with slow chords giving Thorpe's lyrics plenty of time to swirl while still performing a kind of double act as an extended introduction for the next song. Quite impressive, in any sense.
To focus on the easy examples is to miss much of the point of Present Tense
. The band's welcome foray into the world of electronics has resulted in some very unique and, to use this word seriously and not to just mean "different," challenging
music. "Daughter"'s jump from mellow jam to apocalyptic war music in the final third is sure to raise a few eyebrows, just as lead single "Wanderlust" outraged stalwart indie-rock fans by daring to lead to a chorus they weren't expecting. The band have stuck out their collective neck with some undeniably brave decisions, so it's gratifying to hear it work so well for them.
It's usual for Wild Beasts to herd in a new sound with each album, and while it might be possible to look back and see a very linear path to the present this is arguably their biggest step so far. How much of this can be chalked up to the move to London and producers Leo Abrahams and Alex Droomgoole (aka. Lexxx) is anyone's guess, but the result is yet another superb album for the beginning of 2014- just don't confuse them for people who give a ***.