Wild Beasts

Present Tense

Domino

Feb 27, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Bookmark and Share


British art rockers Wild Beasts may hail from the wilds of Cumbria in the far north of England, but their music has always defied their craggy-landscaped origin and ferocious name: their 2009 breakthrough album Two Dancers and it's 2011 follow-up Smother were sinuously sophisticated and low-keybarbed tales of sexual longing and self-loathing wrapped in sleek, atmospheric indie rock.

Wild Beasts have discussed in interview their intentions to expand on the hints of electronica evident on Smother, and Present Tense's opening track "Wanderlust" sets us up for something very different from what we've heard previously from the band. Fat, ominous synths brood over crisp drums in a way that's reminiscent of Being Boiled-era Human League, before frontman Hayden Thorpe's distinctive falsetto croon kicks in to remind us which band we're listening to. Following track "Nature Boy" adds soft tribal beatsan old Wild Beasts mainstayto this new, buzzing synth sound, but ultimately it's all a false start for the album.

From third track "Mecca" onwards, the band largely revert back to what they knowback to the sparse, muted intimacy that fans already know so well from Smother. The electronic aspect features marginally more than on previous albums, with the Metronomy-esque synth embellishments on delicately catchy tracks "Sweet Spot" and "A Simple Beautiful Truth," and the squeaking drones behind closing number "Palace," but it's far from the big sound shift the band hinted at before this record's release. The new sounds are absorbed almost imperceptibly into the Wild Beasts formula, to the extent that listening to the album for the first time, you sense a change but aren't able to immediately pinpoint exactly what's different.

You're left, then, with the sense that Present Tense is the next installment in a (very) gradual progression, rather than a bold reinvention. Plenty of tracks on the album, like the plaintive "Pregnant Pause" and more upbeat "Past Perfect," would slide in quite comfortably among the songs on Smother, and while Wild Beasts have crafted another beautifully soulful record in Present Tensewith perhaps a little more bite than its predecessorit does leave the listener wondering how long a band can stick with one mood before it starts to stagnate. (www.wild-beasts.co.uk)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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Steve
March 2nd 2014
1:51am

The only real question is whether or not this brilliant album is a 9 or a 10. I’m going for the ten and this would have to be in line for the Mercury Prize foe album of the year, and to suggest the band is about to stagnate is complete nonsense. A very poor review but a major step forward for a band that was already well ahead of the pack. Album of the year so far by some distance.