Wild Beasts - Smother (Domino)

After the release of Two Dancers in 2009, Wild Beasts have gained quite the following and were even nominated for the Mercury Prize. So can they keep up their reputation with their latest release?

Released Jun 6th, 2011 via Domino / By Jack Sibley
Wild Beasts - Smother (Domino) Opener ‘Lion’s Share’ makes some pretty serious promises. Starting with just a gently lilting bassline and a vocal with a strong sense of theatrical drama and musical-tainted melody, the song grows and grows until reaching its climax and hammering home the regret-tinged themes with heavy repetition of the title.

The high point of the record comes five tracks in with ‘Plaything’. Starting with a single seeping chord, a decidedly erratic drum beat and a simple melody are added and the track evolves into a slow syncopated groove with a feel like a dark and dirty backstreet. Meanwhile lead singer Hayden Thorpe takes time to explore something a bit darker and moans seedily suggestive lyrics of ‘voyeurs’ and ‘squeezing’.

Fans will be glad to hear that Thorpe has not changed his vocal style as well. With lashings of melodrama, his falsetto still rises and plummets through a range to make amateurs sick. Not sounding unlike Guy Garvey in his more tenor-based moments, Thorpe’s falsetto has the ability to haunt, disturb and mourn and he adapts himself to the band’s variety of moods with ease.

And they definitely cover a lot of moods. Whilst ‘Bed of Nails’ is crying out for a single night with a perhaps unrequited love, the scapegoat nature of ‘Albatross’ reveals deeper problems in the lives of our narrator. Also, whilst a more uptempo number like ‘Reach A Bit Further’ throws hope against this canvas of general misery, ‘Loop The Loop’ seems to convey complete confusion and a feeling of being lost in this world.

In terms of emotions, Smother rarely takes a break. Whether it’s weeping or wanting to forget, it’s certainly no joyride. The album finishes on ‘End Come Too Soon’ and, considering it weighs in at a hefty seven minutes, could easily be mistaken for a longing for slightly more time and space to say what they have to say. This attitude quite nicely summarises the album in fact because, despite it being a great set of tracks, there is clearly much left unsaid. Throughout, our narrator is talking to his subject and, in all honesty, he sounds like he’s failing to get his message across. A final homage to the weakness of words then, and Smother suddenly falls silent.