Words About Music
Wild Beasts “Present Tense”
If you ask me, Wild Beasts is one of the most overlooked British acts of the past decade and arguably one of the best. It’s a true shame that the British music industry chooses to hype up and give its Reading/Leeds headlining slots to derivative acts like Muse and Biffy Clyro when Wild Beasts have been quietly making some of the most original artsy pop rock music I’ve ever heard. They’re consistently critically acclaimed and for good reason. Whether it’s Hayden Thorpe’s eccentric and instantly recognizable falsetto or their continuous shift from traditional guitars ‘n’ drums to synth-based electronics, there are plenty of reasons for Wild Beasts to receive the recognition that bands like Vampire Weekend have gotten in the States. The band’s fourth album “Present Tense” is further evidence of the band’s ability to experiment while still remaining just as intriguing and catchy, and even being a bit more friendly to new listeners.
If there’s one thing I’ll let the band’s critics have, it’s that Thorpe’s operatic vocal style is not always friendly to the ears, which may be what prevents the band from achieving the pop status they deserve. But then again, it fits perfectly well with the aesthetic to their albums and establishes them as a welcome addition to the circle of so-called art rock bands. With that said, “Present Tense” could very well be the band’s least grating album, not that they’ve ever been very difficult to listen to for me. The songs are slower and don’t involve the strangely layered anti-riffs they’re known for. They convey a much sleeker sound for a nighttime drive through London. It’s the winter’s response to Arctic Monkey’s “AM.” Not to say that it’s entirely chilly. It’s just as fun as any of their other albums, but it’s also more mature.
Something you can always count on from a Wild Beasts album is classic witty British lyricism. Once again, the band delivers with some memorable lyrics that don’t try too hard to be cynical or dry like a lot of bands try to be. The wordy lyrics just work so well in this context that you don’t even need to really pay attention to know that what’s being said isn’t your average pop lyricism. Not that that would be bad. I feel like they could sing the most banal, stereotypical lyrics possible and still pass as one of popular music’s greatest modern acts.
While I do prefer the 2008-2009 energetic Wild Beasts that produced “Limbo, Panto” and “Two Dancers,” the Wild Beasts of now has not softened or declined in quality in really any way. They’ve just changed their sound and that’s the most one could possibly ask of a great band. Now I wouldn’t call “Present Tense” my favorite album I’ve heard all year, but it’s a surprisingly consistent effort that signifies a continued evolution in the band’s sound that I can’t bring myself to really complain about.
SCORE – 8.0
FAVORITE TRACKS – Wanderlust, Mecca, Sweet Spot, Daughters, Pregnant Pause, A Simple Beautiful Truth, A Dog’s Life, Past Perfect, Palace