For those who fell for Wild Beasts' 2009 offering Two Dancers
— the dueling guitar lines, the campfire percussive rythms, or the distinct timbre of their voices — the band's newest release Smother
offers even more insight into what makes Wild Beasts worthy of your ear real estate. They've tightened their twisted riffs while maintaining a similar song patter, constructing new sounds that coax without repelling any level of fan, casual or obsessed. Constructions ebb with just as much business as their prior work, and in some cases, more so. But the presence of a new, subtle electric tinge murmuring below the surface provides a new ubiquitous warmth. Sure, dissenters probably won't find much to change their narrow minds; this is still Wild Beasts territory, and they are as weird as ever. But enter the new plot with an open mind, and you'll be rewarded with a unique and engaging set of concoctions.
For the adventurous, Smother
is a treasure trove of exploration. The Beasts make musical mazes, almost always containing no perceivable exit, like the tangled sonic thicket is alive and growing at all times. It's often striking to just sit back and observe the weave of their musical fabric. "Bed Of Nails", aside from its punchy electronic keyboards, would have fit on the dark rhythmic delight of Two Dancers
, no problem. "Loop The Loop" is a perfect example of the band's sexy running riffs, they come alive and morph on top of each other, always running, always shimmering. Never a dull moment, and most are like biting into a six-layer cake.
Other cuts slow it down, strip a few complications out, and work on the band's sultry balladeering with the space between. On Smother
, the interwoven guitars often take a break to make to room for a similar stylized motif with the synthesizer. "Plaything" is exciting in its build, often finding moments of silence to emphasize, sometimes more affecting than those hyped-up moments of every Beast firing on all cylinders to create the musical tapestry. "Albatross" combines both guitar and synth moving lines to create a futuristic kind of nuance, while maintaining that classic Wild Beasts aesthetic. Hard to reinvent a square wheel, but Wild Beasts have never been slaves to the fences of accessibility or the expected.
Speaking of "Plaything", the sexual bravado of the band is still present but somewhat subtler than their previous infamous poetry (e.g. the infamous "tiny penises" song). Words are important to Wild Beasts, even if they aren't shocking. Listen to the way their lyrical constructions glide off the tongue, the words themselves as velvety and plush as the instruments they compliment. "Invisible" has this quality, with the voices almost fading into the instrumental mix. It's perhaps an intentional melting of the tracks, like Wild Beasts and their aptly named album, a bunch of ideas and passages, smashed together.
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Concert Video: Wild Beasts at The Mercury Lounge