Wild Beasts - Present Tense
A technically immaculate but ultimately self-satisfied attempt to dissolve into a new genre
This article is from 2014.
'Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck,' sneers Wild Beasts' singer Hayden Thorpe on the stirring chorus of 'Wanderlust', albeit in the most tender, polite way imaginable.
While it's not directed towards the future critics of his group's fourth LP Present Tense, it may as well be, given the Kendal band's bold, unabashed immersion into the lacquered realms of electronica.
The decision to ditch guitars altogether was called off, though the same cannot be said for long-time producer Richard Formby, who sidestepped to make way for Leo Abrahams, and Present Tense is very aptly-named, the group having also rejected the traditional approach. Instead they constructed the album piece-by-piece on a computer, with 'one browser open,' so they could continually absorb influences during the recording process.
Indication of the decision's success lies in opener 'Wanderlust'. A title meaning 'the overwhelming desire to travel,' it serves as the clearest intent of Wild Beasts' own need for exploration. A mightily-impressive accomplishment, its merging of syrupy vocals, off-kilter percussion, whirring synths and subtle but rousing key changes fully signal the departure first hinted at in 2011's Smother.
The track is undoubtedly PT's high-water mark, setting a standard unmatched. Though the ominous, synth-fused conclusion of 'A Dog's Life' comes close, the opener's following tracks roll back in its wake like relenting waves.
'A Simple Beautiful Truth' wears its 80s neon-jumpsuit shimmer proudly, there's the preservation of Thorpe's quirky ways of thought in 'Pregnant Pause' ('The day drags like a dead thing'), and the occasional eccentric, vapour remnants of debut Limbo Panto.
It does have a frustrating slither of irony, as it's laced in appraisal for those who create beauty without material wealth, though here Wild Beasts have never sounded more decadent.
Technically immaculate, it's a daring attempt to dissolve into a new genre, and one admirable, but for most parts it feels like a self-satisfying first wade rather than a round-the-world-while-blindfolded triumph.
Wild Beasts play The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 27 Mar.