Review Summary: I never learned the lines, it was all improvised
“In my butchers hands her soft fruit tendered, she never pretended, she purred while I grrred” came Hayden Thorpe’s salacious croon more than a decade ago on Wild Beasts’ debut. His prurient poetry was very much their molten core – it was hot, it was steamy, and to the discerning nymph quite dreamy – with coy turns of phrase that’d redden cheeks with hot flush and then again with a playful, stinging slap. Limbo, Panto was a rabble-rouser, lighting fires and wreaking havoc as Wild Beasts do – though as the Northern lads dragged themselves up, slowly those fires dwindled. Slowly those beasts went tame.
Their art-pop breakout Two Dancers saw a softer heavy hand, their salivating innuendo cooled to tense suggestion: “a bottled up glottal stop, waiting for the penny drop”. Their third effort Smother was wounded and vulnerable, and the fourth Present Tense nursed back to health, doting and domesticated. Boy King was their fifth and final, and it shed all of that moving maturation for aviators and leather jackets, steeped in unconvincing machismo that could never match the heaving, matted chest of times prior.
It might not be completely necessary to know about the trajectory of Thorpe’s old band, though like most solo releases from former frontmen, it’s definitely prudent. With that knowledge, Diviner becomes the next chapter instead of the first. “I never learned the lines, it was all improvised” he sings on ‘Anywhen’, renouncing the younger him who wanted to impress and make swoon. On ‘Impossible Object’, the last light clinging to the Diviner’s wick as it melts into the wax pool, he tells his love that “the mirror won’t reflect you the same way that I do”. Take Thorpe as separated from the pack, rid of his boyish bravado, and the romanticism takes a new form; restrained, and fought for.
I can’t tell you anything about the music of Diviner that you haven’t already heard countless times before. It is made of piano, synths, some light percussion. It is luscious and pleasant, but you might find that it ambles. And Thorpe’s falsetto, as ingrained into my psyche as an angelic siren as it might be, is surely not everyone’s flavour. But – I’m nothing if not romantic. And Diviner is a bouquet.