"Machismo is basically a drag act"
March 17, 2014 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Wild Beasts are a band from Kendal, England. They have built their sound on Hayden Thorpe's marmite-like countertenor and Tom Fleming's bass, and complex, somewhat sex-obsessed lyrics. Inside, please find a review of the band's history and discography.

Thorpe and Tom Little formed the band Fauve while students at The Queen Katherine School in 2002. By September 2005 the band's line-up had been filled out with Bert Talbot and Tom Fleming, they had changed their name to Wild Beasts, moved to Leeds for college and work, and recorded two demos. The band's primary weapons were Thorpe's developing countertenor, a penchant for long-winded lyrics, and chiming guitars that at times resembled 1950s rock. (Music videos for Through Dark Night and Assembly)

Their lucky break came in August of 2006 when they were signed to Bad Sneakers. The Brave Bulging Boyant Clairvoyants single dropped in September, and reached #17 on the UK Indie Chart. (Guardian profile) That got the attention Domino, which picked them up in February of 2007. Limbo, Panto, their first proper album, came out in 2008. It included cleaner, better-produced recordings of earlier songs along with a bevy of new material. (Some tracks, new music videos for Brave Bulging Boyant Clairvoyants and The Devil's Crayon, and for B-sides Sylvia, A Melodrama and Treacle Tin.) The band was pegged as "exist[ing] in its own, eccentric universe" and as "want[ing] to know what masculinity feels like."

In August of 2009, the band released their next album, Two Dancers. (Some tracks, music videos for Hooting & Howling, All The King's Men, and We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues) While still "a dance record based around drums" that drew from afrobeat rhythms, much of the bounce present on Limbo, Panto had been stripped away in favor of a smoother, organic sound. The band continued to focus on storytelling in songs, using arch language to describe sex, going clubbing, and being trapped within one's social class; I would say it was akin to seeing a stereotypical chav depicted in stained glass by a rather cynical glazier. The album was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and, according to Metacritic, was the 23rd best-reviewed album of 2009. The tour in support of the album included this show at Hoxton Hall.

The two years of touring took a toll on the band, and drove them in a darker direction on their 2011 album. To Thorpe, Smother was "a document of [the band members'] lives" and "a very bruised, defeated record in many ways." (Some tracks, music videos for Albatross and Bed of Nails.) Fleming said that it "was intended to be textural." Tempos were slower, with instrumentation paired away in favor of a few synths. Easy references to class were removed, and references sexuality and power dynamics retained. Fleming: "Not only are we English, but we're from Northern England, which is a very repressed place and, to be macho, that's always about strength and power if you're a man... [P]eople don't live their lives like that and it's not interesting to hear about it. It's really a pack of lies and we wanted to provide an alternative voice, not exactly more human, but maybe more humanistic, more understanding about people's weaknesses." (Here is Fleming's track-by-track review for Drowned in Sound.) According to Metacritic, the album was the 16th best-reviewed album of 2011. The band's tour in support of the album was deliberately brief, but included this show at the 2011 Other Voices Festival and this show at the 2012 Sziget Festival.

On February 24 of this year, after an approximately two-year hiatus, the band released their fourth album, Present Tense. (Some tracks, music videos for Wanderlust and Sweet Spot.) It is a continuation of the minimal style of Smother, but fleshed out and made slightly more 80s-sounding thanks to the increased presence of synthesizers courtesy of producers Leo Abrahams and Lexxx (and possibly some inspiration from Clams Casino). The lyrics have also become simpler; from Thorpe: "When we were using more conventional instruments – the meat-and-two-veg of guitars, bass and drums – the voices had to carry more of the impetus. Now, increasingly, all the weight and the drama is in the music." From Fleming: "[W]e wanted to... shake off that slightly mournful, inward-looking feel of the last record." The album has been well-received by critics, and might be the first album of theirs to include a song that is purely pop enough to include a song "that could be played at a wedding."

You can read a a track-by-track assessment by Thorpe here, and can see Thorpe and Fleming perform a cover of Wrecking Ball at Other Music here. They made a promotional mix for FACT, and Thorpe has collaborated with Jon Hopkins on a cover of Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus.
posted by Going To Maine (13 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Could you maybe flesh out the post a little? Add a link or something?

(Just kidding; crazy awesome post, and it's going to take days to digest all this!)
posted by xedrik at 11:15 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't believe I like these guys, but I do. Thanks so much for pointing them out to me.
posted by Palindromedary at 1:46 AM on March 18, 2014

The Wild Beasts are a band from Kendal, England.

Don't mean to be a pest, but the band's called Wild Beasts - no 'The'. Great post otherwise!
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:04 AM on March 18, 2014

I remember listening to 'All the King's Men' a few years ago, and really liking it. Thanks for reminding me to check out the rest of their stuff!
posted by mean square error at 3:06 AM on March 18, 2014

In 2012, Fleming and Talbot participated in a wide ranging, four part interview with FaceCulture.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:29 AM on March 18, 2014

Loved them ever since "The Devil's Crayon" appeared on an Indie/Rock Playlist sometime in 2008.
posted by mykescipark at 4:47 AM on March 18, 2014

Mod note: Definite article removed by request, carry on.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:24 AM on March 18, 2014

[Definite article removed by request, carry on.]

Foo Fighters fans welcome the company. This is a great post and an excellent introduction to a band I haven't heard of.
posted by three blind mice at 7:07 AM on March 18, 2014

From the We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues 10": Through The Iron Gate, The Devil's Crayon (Acoustic). The latter is apparently also from an iTunes Sesson. Acoustic versions of three songs from Smother can be found here.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:13 AM on March 18, 2014

[Definite article removed by request, carry on.]

Foo Fighters fans welcome the company.

The The The fans in the thread welcome the existence of the leftover the's, and look forward to the use we will make of the articles in question.
posted by dersins at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, man, Limbo, Panto was like the soundtrack to my summer of 2008, and I had completely forgotten about them since. Thank you for this!
posted by dogheart at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2014

Another wide ranging, three part interview with FaceCulture, this time with Thorpe and Fleming, and from 2014.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:54 PM on March 18, 2014

Oh man. I've been listening to Wanderlust over and over for the past few months (mainly because of the awesome Philip Glass samples).

I really do need to check out the rest of their stuff.
posted by schmod at 6:58 AM on April 7, 2014

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