In My Name
The track, In My Name, is available via:
The album, Diviner, is available via:
24th May, 2019
Domino Recording Co.
NOW that I have transferred over to reviewing...
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas
the bigger artists, it gives me a bit more depth and reach regarding subject matter. I have been a fan of Hayden Thorpe since his days with Wild Beasts – one must nod to them. Before I come to his solo work and a song from his debut album that I wanted to address, I feel it is only right to talk about moving from bands to life as a solo artist; debut albums that are very different from past work and take you by surprise; artists who strike you with their personality and intelligence; putting something deeper, lyrics-wise, into albums; where Thorpe might go and what (to me) makes him pop – I will end by looking at a very special song and predicting the next few months for Thorpe. One cannot help but mention Wild Beasts in the context of Hayden Thorpe. He was their lead and chief songwriter and someone who struck the imagination from their debut album. I remember listening to the imaginatively-titled Limbo, Panto and revelling in the strangeness and originality of the songs. All helmed and propelled by Thorpe’s gymnastic and resonant voice, the Wild Beasts’ sound was unlike anything I had heard before. It seemed like the Kendall-formed band had this great connection and, in terms of their music, they evolved from album to album. I do love how (Wild Beasts) changed from this somewhat eccentric-at-times band who were quite theatrical and high-spirited to a more mature, romantic and nuanced group. I love their debut album – don’t get me wrong – but I feel Wild Beasts really sort of honed their craft as time elapses. Thorpe was at the centre of everything they did and blew people away with his incredible voice and his stunning lyrics. He seemed to articulate love and desire in a way no other writer was doing – almost like a poet compared to the more conventional and formulaic songwriters around him. Things are quite different for him now that he has stepped out alone.
I am not sure what the reason was behind Wild Beasts’ split – it seemed like they had done everything they could – but the sound of the band was, for the most part, quite racy and intense. Thorpe spent years in this group, writing a certain way and having his musical brothers around him. There was a comfort in that, for sure, but I feel like Thorpe was always straining to go solo and have more of a say. The Wild Beasts template was solid and exciting but, when you are in a band, there has to be a sense of diplomacy and I guess you have to write in a certain way. Once the band had put out their debut and established themselves, they could not jump in too many different direction or stray that far from the mould. Now that Thorpe is doing his own thing, he could sort of rewrite the rulebook and break away from the Wild Beasts sound. It must be very strange adapting from the comfort of a band and that routine and going solo and having to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. To be fair, Thorpe has people around him and he is not completely alone. There are differences in terms of texture and tone when you compare Thorpe’s new work and the band material. I think Thorpe is a lot more ambitious, varied and comfortable when on his own than with Wild Beasts. Maybe that is strange to say but I think Diviner, his debut album, has that sense of comfortable and freedom that was perhaps missing from the Wild Beasts days. A lot of former band members have struggled to go alone and they have not really been able to match the giddy heights of their former glories – I am thinking of Liam Gallagher (Oasis) as a perfect example. In any case, the man is out in front and he has released an album scooping kudos and great critical affection. It does seem that there will be (I hope) much more from Hayden Thorpe and he has managed to transition from Wild Beasts to his own material without too many problems.
Before I look at the way Thorpe’s solo music is different to the work of Wild Beasts, I wanted to bring in an interview from NME, where Thorpe talked about going solo and what it is like being out in front:
“So much of your life and identity has been wrapped up in being creative. Is it nice to have that element of yourself back out there?
“Yeah, totally. I often think musicians are kind of like tennis players, in that they become so hyper-specialised at that one very specific thing, they’re actually ultimately very useless at other ways of being. I kind of feel either hyper-specialised, or completely maladjusted – or maybe both at the same time. The thing is, once you’re used to crafting beauty and the cadence of your life is towards trying to create beauty, that becomes the compulsion, and nothing else matches that. That is everything.”
Had you always intended to go it alone, once the band came to an end?
“I had no idea what I wanted to do, because I had always relied on music as a compulsion. And you can’t rely on compulsion – it’s either there or it’s not. To start to make plans upon a compulsion, it’s a bit like navigating by the stars, it’s trial-and-error. I didn’t want to bank on it, and I had no expectation that anyone would want to listen to my [solo] music. There was no sensation of inheritance or righteousness to this position. All-in-all, what happened felt so right – the alignment and the perfection of the ending of the band, and how much closure and peace it gave meant that there was a massive forward propulsion from that. Which I hadn’t expected.”
One of the great things about Thorpe going solo is that he does not have to follow the last Wild Beasts album (Boy King came out in 2016) and have that pressure. Diviner is less aerobatic and saucy as a lot of the Wild Beasts material and I think the sound is more cerebral and soulful. Thorpe discuses and dissects his passage and progress and is very candid. Where Wild Beasts’ songs had their sensitive moments and were pretty frank, I think Thorpe is even more revealing and honest with his lyrics.
PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Smithies
There is never a sense of gloom or oppression coming through but, instead, there are all these mixtures and contrasts. He can go from revealing and tender to this quivering and insatiable lead. One might say that this is similar to Wild Beasts but listen to Diviner and its general feel and you can detect something very different indeed. I think Thorpe is placing lyrics and the power of his words above, perhaps, the flexibility of his voice or the compositions. That is the impression I got as the lyrics definitely dig deeper and linger the longest. On the subject of his voice, it has always been his calling card and something that has provided excitement and wonder. I am not suggesting Thorpe’s voice is more restrained on his debut album but I think it has calmed a little and is more graceful; less wild than his former self but, if anything, more varied and interesting. Perhaps it is impossible to define the differences between Thorpe as the Wild Beasts lead and what he is doing now. One can find similarities between the two ventures but there are big differences, too. Following the band’s split in 2017, Thorpe set about crafting an album that was his own vision. Recorded over the course of 2018 with his long-time collaborator, Leo Abrahams, this was a strange period for Thorpe. No longer with his bandmates, other artists might have felt unsure and struggled to move forward. Instead, Thorpe took to the task of recording a new album and has transitioned wonderfully. It is great that Hayden Thorpe is carrying on post-Beasts and he seems to have entered a new creative phase. Is it just the music of Thorpe that strikes the heart and seduces the senses? Alas, there is a lot more to the man and I do think he is one of these artists that can captivate and intrigue away from the studio.
Let us consider his interviews and how he comes across. Ever since the Wild Beasts days, Thorpe has provided these very intelligent, rich and unique interviews. I love the way he talks and how he describes things. His imagery and use of language is superb and he comes across as this very witty, intellectual and interesting human. Maybe you think that is pretty normal and of little note but consider all the artists out there and how many of them actually get under the skin. I would say there are very few that resonate and connect in a power and long-lasting way. Perhaps I just need to do more research but Thorpe is far more interesting than a lot of his peers. You can hear that intelligence bleed into his songs and, when he talks to journalists, he comes across as very warm and engaged. Rather than provide the same answers (to a lot of the same questions) one gets something different and fresh every time. That is rare in the modern landscape and it is an attractive quality. It is not a slight on musicians but many of them tend to provide very ordinary interviews and do not really hook you with their personalities. Sam Fender is another great artist who has that blend of intelligence and humour – there are a few other artists that have that similar level of colour and excitement. I don’t know. Maybe there is too much music out there and it is harder to find those who are going to stand in the mind. Hayden Thorpe compels with his music but he also makes you stand to attention when he speaks. I do think that this helps when you listen to the music. If you have an artist that appears dry and not especially striking during interviews then it creates this sort of odd tone in the music. I listen to Thorpe speak and how he comes across and I get more from the music because of it; it makes me want to listen to what he is saying and the music remains for longer.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas
Perhaps that is just me but I am always looking for artists that have that attractive personality or something about them. The depth and wisdom Thorpe conveys during interviews comes across in his songs. I have mentioned how Diviner is different to his Wild Beasts output. Perhaps more honest and stirring, this (the album) is the sound of a man who has experienced a lot of change the last couple of years and can finally let these feelings and stories come to the surface. There is no telling how far Thorpe can go and what comes next but I love his debut solo album and feel that there will be huge demands. I will nod to touring and the future in the conclusion but, if you have not experienced Diviner yet, make sure you listen to it. For those who loved Wild Beasts and their more exuberant moments, you will find something to love on Thorpe’s album. Before I move to review my favourite song from Thorpe’s debut album, I will bring in another interview where Thorpe explains his move to solo work and what the main differences were (from Wild Beasts’ sound); what motivated him and what defines Diviner:
“Although ending the group left him unmoored at first, he didn’t find working alone daunting, largely because he sees Diviner as a record made on intuition: the title reflects his belief that songs are “foot-soldiers of the subconscious”, and that this album was already there, just waiting for him to write it. There are differences, though. “In society now, the individual is king,” he says. “The individual success is absolutely placed at your door, and therefore the failure is absolutely at your door, so the scrutiny, self-interrogation and attention on yourself to make a record on your own is something to behold.”
Most of its songs search for clarity and catharsis after confusion and chaos. Every morning before writing, he says, he would watch YouTube videos from philosopher Alain de Botton’s The School of Life. “You be my diviner / Show me where to go,” he sings over the title track’s shimmering pianos; “A world is waiting for us outside / No more hiding in plain sight,” he promises on the dreamy Impossible Object. Thorpe describes it as an album about breaking up with his idea of who he was, which isn’t as fraught as it sounds. “If people go through a struggle, they have a breakdown,” he says. “But why can’t you break up? When people go through these phases, are they not going through some necessary reincarnation?”
I ask if the record’s penchant for spiritual sensuality, instead of the wordy sauciness of songs past, means he has changed in other ways. Thorpe agrees it’s “less Viz”, but says there is still sexuality in the record, and he never got tired of people harping on about Wild Beasts’ fondness for sex. “I revelled in it!” he hoots. But, he says, “there’s a limit to how sexy things can get when you spend a lot of time on your own”, and that he does feel less cocksure nowadays. “Don’t things get more wondrous and confusing as we go on?” he asks. “It’s more of a mystery now, in a beautiful way.” Out of the blue, the automated voice on his phone interrupts to ask if he wants to open an app. “Tinder!” he says in a stage-whisper.
You can see what I mean about giving good value in interviews! There is the sexuality and sensual searching from the Wild Beasts days but, from that fire, a renewed and different man has risen from the flames. There is a lot of wisdom and truth on Diviner; some common threads and songs that everyone can relate to. Out of the ten tracks, I was spoiled for choice regarding a song to assess - but I plumped for the excellent In My Name.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Parri Thomas
If one is expecting Diviner’s songs to leap around and have the same sort of growl as Wild Beasts, songs like In My Name take you in a very different direction. Piano-led, it starts with this very elegant and romantic sound. You are immersed in the beauty of the piano and where it will lead us. I think songs that go in too hard sort of put you off or sap the energy. Appropriately relaxed and intrigued, Thorpe steps to the microphone and provides some curious expressions. He is, it seems, tired of shaking these hands and can smell their perfume. He has slept in their room and knelt in the dirt. There are these powerful images and scenes unfolding and, when it comes to the chorus, a bit more light is revealed. He asks (the unnamed subject), if they must crusade and do what they are doing then not to do so in his name. One can apply that sort of proclamation to political avenues. It is hard not to think about things happening in British politics right now and people doing our bidding. Given the sights of Thorpe fighting demons and kneeling in the dirt, one can also speculate about romantic endeavours and how, maybe, there is a split occurring. Rather than overtly and explicitly reveal the truth behind the song, one can come to their own conclusion and build their own story. I do love the sheer majesty of the piano and how it is joined by strings. Wild Beasts did employ a statelier and romantic sound in their later work but Thorpe has taken that up a notch. The endless beauty and grace of the music perfectly accompanies the lyrics; always arresting and vivid. You can see Thorpe in this wind of turmoil and pleading to someone – the anonymous villain – not to sully his name and use him/people as a pawn in a game. You can hear a bit of Kate Bush in the sound of In My Name.
The building and brooding composition reminds me of Aerial and 50 Words for Snow; the way Bush could build these soundscapes and unite them to a stunning and passionate vocal. Maybe I have been looking too deeply at political themes: maybe the past life of Hayden Thorpe is under the microscope on this song. In Wild Beasts, there would have been these demands and impressions; journalists reading too much into what he did and misconstruing the words. Perhaps there is this feeling that, now he is solo, this is a chance to be truthful and set the record straight. In My Name is, as I say, a song that can be interpreted in a number of different ways from different angles. I adore how the song sweeps and swoons; it flies like a bird and has this haunted quality. Thorpe, his voice delicate and determined, does not want people flying “that flag” is his name. When thinking about the image of a flag being waved, I am back to political avenues but, being too literal, it might be other people speaking for him or getting the wrong impression. Thorpe seems to be battling against false ideologies and lies; a sense that other people are talking for him and causing huge strain. Although Thorpe’s voice never explodes or loses control, you can hear this sense of tension underneath everything. The composition is this beautiful thing that brings the best from Thorpe’s voice and takes the song in new directions. I have mentioned Kate Bush but there are elements of Tori Amos’ early work and what she was doing on albums like Under the Pink. You are stunned by the stillness and beauty of In my Name but fascinated by the lyrics and the pictures they paint. I had to listen to song a few times to really get to the bottom of it and, to be fair, even after that much time, there are mysteries and questions lingering. That is the mark of a great song: one that can get under the skin but still leaves you itching a bit. Maybe Hayden Thorpe is addressing his past life or what is happening in the U.K. right now. There is no real telling but I like the fact there is a sense of the ambiguous and mysterious. I love In My Name and it seems to join all the aspects of Diviner. From the gorgeous, kiss-like vocals with tremor and passion through to the stunning compositions and the compelling lyrics. It is a marvellous song from a truly remarkable debut album. Hayden Thorpe has always been a wonderful songwriter but I think he has really progressed and come on leaps since the days of Wild Beasts. Make sure you get Diviner and check out stunning songs such as In My Name.
PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Sharp
It is always hard accepting an artist on their own terms when they step solo. I was a big Oasis fan but have different opinions regarding Liam and Noel Gallagher’s solo work. Any big artist that leaves a band and goes alone will always be compared to their former days and have this pressure on their shoulders. That is fair enough but I do think we need to judge every album on its own merits and not expect the same thing to come through. Rather than duplicate the work of Wild Beasts and feel the need to please the critics in that sense, Hayden Thorpe has produced an album that contains remnants of his band work but is a lot more personal and different that all of that. I think Thorpe sounds freer and more natural here. More of a reincarnation than evolution, I love all the different sides to Thorpe that were not necessarily exploited during the Wild Beasts days. I have a huge affection for the band and really liked everything they put out. I am not sure, as I say, why things ended for them but it must have been tough for Thorpe to adapt and realise that he had to go solo. Some artists would be overwhelmed by that but Thorpe has shouldered all of this and seems to be in a really good place. What comes next for him? Now that Diviner is out, it is unlikely there will be too many other singles but there will be tour dates. Not only does Thorpe have his fans from Wild Beasts but he will appeal to a whole new set of people. Thorpe has a couple more in-stores to come and will get a chance to meet fans and get their reaction. The critical response to Diviner has been positive and that must give him heart and energy. I know there will be people around the world who want to see him play and get a chance to hear the songs unfurled in the live arena.
It has been a strange and wonderful past few years for Hayden Thorpe. Think about the music he has been responsible for and how he has had to go from this band leader to the solo artist. I think his debut solo album is incredible and there will be, I am sure, ideas in his mind regarding material for a second album. I hope to catch Thorpe perform live – he was in London yesterday so I missed the opportunity – because he is a fantastic performer and someone who has a natural bond with the crowd. Let’s end things here but I am really chuffed Diviner is out in the world. I wanted to single out a track, In My Name, because is struck me harder and I feel it only fair to delve into a song with depth and passion – giving a few words about each track seems a bit causal and ineffective. I urge everyone to get the album and experience all the different moods and subjects explored. It is a very rich work that gets stronger and more compelling the more you listen to it. You can tell how much heart and soul has gone into the music and how personal the music is. That being said, everyone can relate to what Thorpe is saying and he definitely involves the listener in the album. I will keep my eyes on Thorpe and see where he heads off to next. After his gigs and plans this summer, there will be that period where he can evaluate and think where he steps next. Will there be another album or will there be a few more dates later in the year? It is a great time for Hayden Thorpe and I wish him the best of luck as he pushes forward. With Wild Beasts, he was this unique and vibrant lead who amassed a huge following. Now, as he steps out alone, he has even more sides to him and I feel like he can accrue a whole new audience. It is a great time for the man and many eyes will be trained his way. Make sure you follow Hayden Thorpe’s next moves and keep abreast of all his happenings. Diviner is a truly wonderful album that is among the year’s best but I do think there is a lot more to come from…
THIS beautiful former Beast.
Follow Hayden Thorpe
ALL UNCREDITED PHOTOS:
Getty Images/Hayden Thorpe