Three albums in and already Wild Beasts have shown how a group can develop seemingly effortlessly from record to record. Their 2008 debut ‘Limbo Panto’ banked a lot on the vocal acrobatics of frontman Hayden Thorpe but it was a record which sought to surprise and shock rather than soothe. The following year’s ‘Two Dancers’ underplayed the melodrama but achieved more depth. ‘Smother’ is not a dynamic step forward from its predecessor but – to quote one of their new songs – it certainly does “reach a bit further”.
‘Lion’s Share’ toys with sexual imagery (a continual theme) whilst Thorpe’s intimate vocals and the subtle arrangements evoke a male version of Kate Bush. The melodies to ‘Bed Of Nails’ and ‘Plaything’ are original and beguiling. This is a group that doesn’t need to hammer home their talents; instead they unfurl themselves slowly.
As with ‘Two Dancers’, just as important are the vocal contributions from Tom Fleming. He adds a mature warmth to ‘Deeper’ and even more so for ‘Invisible’, whose nocturnal majesty seems to be cut from the same cloth as The Blue Nile. The sign of a good track is when you yearn for it to last longer and ‘Albatross’ is one such moment as Thorpe’s romantic desperation demands attention. The record ends on a high too with the delicate ‘Burning’ followed by the slowly unwinding, chiming delights of ‘End Come Too Soon’
‘Smother’ further emphasises the idea that Wild Beasts are an albums’ act; apparently rejecting the notion of delivering obvious singles. On the first listen, it seems as if the record is almost too understated for its own good but it gradually reveals and rewards for each subsequent play. Better still, no one is making records that sound anything like this right now.
Kate Bush, The Associates, The Blue Nile