Wild Beasts
Smother


4.5
superb

Review

by STOP SHOUTING! USER (28 Reviews)
October 29th, 2011 | 16 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An inchoate howl for humanity in the darkness of its existence.

Like the best of UK music in the last couple of years (The XX, James Blake, These New Puritans, Foals), Wild Beasts seem to have subscribed albeit tentatively to a minimalist credo. Gone is the raucous tomfoolery and lyrical playfulness of Two Dancers with its tittering focus on body parts and functions. Instead, a deep restraint, something darker. Riffs repeat and then some more, as if searching for meaning. The songs don’t develop or progress, but are constructed only to be deconstructed, and by such a reductive process reveal the motifs that underpin them. Smother feels - well exactly that - smothered, flattened, with all flippancy and frivolity removed.

It is the percussion here that drives and defines: the rotal beats of ‘Lion’s Share’, the tribal toms of ‘Plaything’, the jungle pulses of ‘Reach a Bit Further’, the tick-tocking urgency of ‘Invisible’. Around these polyrhythms are swaddled cascading piano lines, an arpeggioed guitar, a swathe of synthesiser. Above all these are tonal songs sketched out in textures, not so much what is put in as what is left out; they’re about holding back, about setting a mood.

This softness can have you drifting drowsily, dreamily suffused in warmth, thinking there is no bite. But listen to the words and the circadian rhythms do not lull but jolt. Referencing Shakespeare (the doomed purity of Hamlet’s Ophelia), the guilt complex of Coleridge’s Albatross and the-life-as-monster that is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, what we are hearing are not comforting whispers, but existentialist howls. “Your lips to my lips, I cease to exist” is the understated croon.

Take the closing song, where musical counterpoints entwine and subside, fragment and coalesce. Eight minutes, seeming like seconds, spanning decades, until the anguish of its final epithanic refrain (“THE END HAS COME TOO SOON”); an inchoate howl for humanity in the darkness of its existence. As the CD shudders to a halt, though there is no music, there is its echo all around, its vibrations in the air all around, fading infinitesimally, to be replaced only by empty space, only the sense of something missing.

As if life itself, being born, is an insistent process that we are not even aware of, and by the time we are aware of it, it is to be taken away from us, and the memories of death (parents, grandparents, friends not deserving tragedy, car crashes, drugs, alcohol, cancer), the memories of death are all that remain.



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user ratings (201)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
DoofusWainwright CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
Stop the Press as England belatedly births its first quality guitar band of the new millennium...

StrangerofSorts STAFF (4.5)
Unique, ethereal and brilliant. This isn't an album that you can afford to miss....

chambered89 (4.5)
...

AliW1993 (4.5)
Wild Beasts' ascent continues in stunning fashion....


Comments:Add a Comment 
jefflebowski
October 29th 2011


8552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

review's really well written, if a bit pompous.



Great album, should've had the Mercury prize

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ta man, trying to write in a bit more grown up way? not sure about pompous though!

jefflebowski
October 29th 2011


8552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

maybe not pompous, but a bit verbose/grandiose. not that that's strictly a bad thing though

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2011


22455 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I really like the way you wrote the 1st paragraph SS... Because it can be viewed from both a positive or negative perspective. It really is up to the reader... Just as the effectiveness of the refinement that Wild Beasts have chosen here is up to the listener.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

that's an interesting rating Davey!





StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2011


2902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Everyone who's reviewed this has given it a 4.5. Horray for individuality!



I really liked this review, havapos. Though I'm a firm believer that by the conclusion you should be talking only about the LP - but different can be good.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

well, it's a personal 5, if that helps.



i know what you mean about the conclusion, but it captures the darkness behind this album for me.



and thanks for the virtual pos!

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2011


22455 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

To quote you: "Riffs repeat... The songs don’t develop or progress... smothered, flattened, with all flippancy and frivolity removed".



Some see that as a positive & I see that as a negative.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yeah, i can see that. it's very understated.

StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2011


2902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sorry bout that - internet went and fucked up on me.



And don't mind Davey, he just doesn't like fun.

AliW1993
October 29th 2011


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I didn't like the review much but it was well written. Gonna listen to this and WU LYF back to back to

decide which is my AOTY.

Nomad
October 29th 2011


247 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Still my AOTY. And yeah, it should have had a Mercury Nomination.

AliW1993
October 29th 2011


7511 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The list they came up with was pretty poor given what a good year it's been for British music.



That said, PJ Harvey was a worthy winner.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

preciate the honesty of your comment ali, though it hurts!



i agree this, wu lyf and pj harvey are all very good.

Jade
Emeritus
October 29th 2011


10698 Comments


Fantastic review. Some may view it as overly verbose or - daresay I use the Sputnik word - prententious, but the thing is it actually makes complete sense at every turn. It's not a very accessible review, but not all need to be that way. Have a strong POS, my friend.

I remember enjoying Lion's Share on this, but none others really stuck out. I may listen to another and see if it appeals to me.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 29th 2011


748 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks. i just had a look at your last review and it's good.



maybe check out loop the loop, or end come too soon, or invisible.



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