Wild Beasts :: Smother

Yesterday I jokingly described Wild Beasts to a friend as a mind-numbing combination of Queen, Death Cab for Cutie and Dean Martin. While such mash-up descriptors are typically a sad reflection of my limited musical tastes, I challenge any one out there to refute this one. Hailing from Kendal, England, Wild Beasts features two energetic and unique vocalists: Hayden Thorpe, whose warbling countertenor channels Freddie Mercury's more operatic moments, and Tom Fleming, who appears to be the only surviving member of the Rat Pack.

Wild Beasts' newest album, Smother, sees the band toning down some of the unrestrained energy of their previous efforts. The steady, frolicking drum and bass lines of their last album, Two Dancers, are replaced with slow, drawn out melodies and floating electric guitar lines. It's an odd stylistic decision for a band fronted by such an extraordinary pair of voices, and fans of earlier albums might find it a bit off putting. But after several listens Smother finds its groove.

Second track "Bed of Nails" shoots out of the gate, carried by a subtle, machine-gun bass line. Post-rock guitar lines bounce through the track alongside a repetitive and quiet synth that slowly gains steam as the song expands. The package as a whole is mesmerizing. Album standouts "Albatross" and "Reach a Bit Further" are perfect examples of how Wild Beasts has managed to convey a paradoxical sense of intensity and relaxed control. The play between Thorpe's and Fleming's vocals on the latter track is the highlight (and emotional peak) of the album.

Smother is an oddly fitting name for an album that seems, on first listen, to rein in the energy of Wild Beasts' previous music. But this restraint also reveals the unique songwriting and undeniable talent of each band member. I highly recommend this one!

You can stream the album over at The Guardian. Release date is May 9.


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