Cumbria’s Wild Beasts made quite a splash a few years back, variously described as “Epic”, “Proggy”, or “Epically Proggy”. Much was made of singer Hayden Thorpe’s challenging vocals, the kind of effortful falsetto that makes you think that he’s trying just that little bit too hard to Emote. Jeff Buckley or Andrew Montgomery he’s not. Hearing their stuff a while ago I wasn’t immediately impressed and, as per usual, got distracted by something else, consigning Wild Beasts to my “Can’t be arsed” bin.
But when their new record Smother started getting rapturous write-ups in trusted places such as Drowned In Sound and Sunday Times’s Culture section (essential reading, by the way), my curiosity was slightly piqued. The whole curiosity piquing continued to grow on reading an interview with them that namechecked Swans and Cocteau Twins, two bands that really ought to be namechecked more regularly by Ver Yoof Ov Today. Checking out their video for lead singled “Albatross” on YouTube, I was struck by a number of things. Firstly, blimey that’s an awful video. Secondly, the band don’t half take themselves seriously. And thirdly, the song is rather good, all yearning and hidden secrets, with a wonderfully subdued musical backing.
Not sure I can say the same about the rest of the record yet. The bands seriousness and (choosing my words carefully here) a particularly torrid view of life and shagging make me wonder if this is one of those bands that a man approaching middle age just finds a bit embarrassing. You just want to take them to a lively bar, feed them Jaegerbombs, give them a hug and tell them that things will be fine. Some music is meant for those who are still going through that painful and bruising part of life, before their hearts and skin toughen up, more ready to take those inevitable knocks of life. And shagging.
And it has to be said – both singer’s voices take some getting used to.
Wild Beast’s Smother is out on Monday.