Esprit De Corps and Tristesse
I will keep this nice and short but I could not let…
PHOTO CREDIT: Maxyme G. Delisle
this day past without marking the sad news of Wild Beasts’ split. I will write about them in greater depth as details prevail but, seeing Hayden Thorpe’s eloquently and heartfelt letter (posted on Instagram) announcing the band’s break-up – it makes me realise what a hole will be left. The band has been credited with bringing sensuality and poetic spirit into the mainstream – helping a degree of sophistication and old-school lust into music. The intellect of Hayden Thorpe (the frontman and co-writer) is matched by his flexible and extraordinary voice. With Ben Little and Chris Talbot providing musical support and perfect notes – a tight and compelling band who have amassed a huge amount of respect since their debut. It is the interplay and connection between Thorpe and co-vocalist/writer Tom Fleming that fascinates me. The wild, boy-like flight and extravagance of Hayden Thorpe’s voice perfectly blends with Fleming’s deep and commanding tones – the two able to weave exceptional magic by uniting their voices. My first exposure to the band, like many, was their debut album, Limbo, Panto – they released three E.P.s before 2008 but their debut L.P. is the record that put them on the map. That record, listening now, sounds so far ahead of its time.
The galloping rhythms and weirdness of Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants; the growling and gurning of She Purred, While I Grrred; the brilliant of the Fleming-led His Grinning Skull – so much variation, beguiling oddity and originality on that record. Some critics were off-put because of Thorpe’s vocals – a divisive tool that can either take you by the soul or grab you by the bollocks. Anyone who takes umbrage at his free, flowing and dancing voice do not realise the nuance and potency it holds. It is not only the (co)lead that makes the band so special – I will talk about them in the present-tense as they are, technically, still together. Through their career, they managed to alter and evolve their sound without sacrificing their ethos. Two Dancers (2009) and Smother (2011) smooth the rougher, wilder edges of their debut and offer great control, elegance and depth. The former is a stunning record that contains some of their debut-era leap – Hooting & Howling and All the King’s Men – but a, in When I’m Sleepy and Empty Nest, different aspects and strands. They managed to maintain their incredible lyrics and originality but brought a greater sense of romance and tenderness to the physicality. If the debut concerned a youthfulness and sexuality then Two Dancers was the sound of young men more considerate and level-headed.
Smother followed that and, if anything, is the peak of their career. Smother made the top-ten of many critics’ end-of-year lists and no surprise. Hayden Thorpe, keen to head away from London – the Yorkshire-raised band moved to London early in their career – and to the Lake District. The soundscape and majesty of the place inspired their most widescreen, beautiful and rich album so far. Wild Beasts could never abandon the sweat and scintillating of sex – Plaything and Reach a Bit Further address romance and relations with typical intelligence and poetic flair – but, here, they bring yet MORE details and colour into their work. Present Tense was the sound of a band detaching from touring and the burn-out of 2012. That year found them hitting the road hardcore. Having released three albums in four years; many could forgive them for wanting to have a rest – that was not going to happen. They said goodbye to long-term producer Richard Formby and drafted Leo Abrahams in (alongside Lexx). They helped sharpen the band’s material and help assimilate more electronic and synthesised sounds into the blend. Present Tense, as a result, remains a more direct and stringent work (than Smother). Boy King, their final album, saw another shift and retool. The boys returned to the sexual abandon and masculinity of Limbo, Panto – albeit, a less florid and more aggressive reinterpretation. The album addresses modern-day masculinity and features heavy synths and compressed drumming – more guitar solos and a thud that sounds foreign when compared to their previous records.
That departure from Art-Pop stunned some critics – who felt they had lost their edge and compromised – but, in truth, is was the band remaining fresh and mobile. Recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton; it won plenty of plaudits but, perhaps, showed the band had lived through their finest days. The circumstances of the band’s split are not known but one hopes the split is amicable – the brother-like bond one hears in interview and on the stage suggests they were as close away from the microphone as on. It is hard to say but perhaps it is the end of the creative road – let’s hope the members all find successful careers away from Wild Beasts. The tears have only recently dried from the realisation another great British band, The Maccabees, are no longer with us. I play Pelican (from their third (and penultimate) album, Given to the Wild) like I’d read a text from an old lover – remembering the good times and wondering where the hell it all went wrong. As I rock in the shower in a pool of my own tears whilst adopting the foetal position – I thought the sense of loss would not heighten. The Wild Beasts lads might not have the same fanbase and critical appreciation as The Maccabees but, in the way we mourned and reacted to the band’s unwanted split, there are a lot of disgruntled and affected fans of Wild Beasts. They have made an incredible impact on music and their absence will be felt.
There are no other bands that have the same chemistry and songwriting combinations of them. It is pleasing knowing they leave a legacy and have inspired other bands to bring poetry, sophistication and layered compositions together. I am doing Wild Beasts a disservice because there are so many other components and positives that one can preserve. The guys had/have an incredible stage presence and speak so beautifully in interviews – articulate and deep; always fascinating to hear. I hope there are no tensions in the band and there was a consensus to the division – they all need to move on and try new things. I hope, too, there is a Maccabees-style farewell gig from the band. I am not sure when they are officially no more – and whether they release a final single – but that will all come to light. Whilst there is a sombreness and unexpected shock in music right now; the effect the band have had is clear. On Twitter, the likes of Everything Everything (influenced by Wild Beasts) and Zola Blood have shared their sadness. As we say goodbye to a fantastic and inspiring band; we look back at their incredible career and what they have brought to music. Thanks to Wild Beasts for the beautiful, sweaty and sensational music. I am confident we will never…
SEE anyone quite like you again!