I recently blogged about Wild Beasts latest album, “Boy King” here. It was Rough Trade’s Album of the Month for August. It generated a mixed bag of reactions. A couple of friends loved it. A few more couldn’t see what the fuss was about, which was frankly how I felt about Wild Beasts’ earlier albums.
But not this one. So when I saw that the band were playing locally and mostly featuring the new LP in their set, I thought “why not”.
The band were playing two nights at a not quite sold-out Roundhouse. Entering to This Mortal Coil’s “Song To The Siren” with the stage bathed in a red glow, the band opened with “Tough Guy”. The new material crackled and fizzed throughout. This was high quality pop music, which sounds like a bit of a back handed compliment. It isn’t meant to be. The eighties sheen put me in mind of Vince Clarke’s bands (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure) who all had the happy knack of matching a winning melody with soulful vocals. In both Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming, they have bring to mind Andy Bell and Alison Moyet respectively.
What was evident in the show was the crowd’s enthusiasm for older material. Going back to 2009, “We Still Got The Taste For Dancing On Our Tongues” and “Hooting And Howling” got a great reception.
It is clear that they are building a decent repertoire of material. I can seem them going down a storm at a festival and if they continue to develop their material, the future is assured.
The question for me is “do they want to get into a bigger league?”. If so, they’ve got a couple of things to address. They need to gain a bit more personality. It was clear that the audience enjoyed the show but there wasn’t quite that intimate bond that generates a growing fanatic following. The engagement with the crowd was along the lines of “aw shucks, we can’t believe we are here”. It was great to see the appreciation but it didn’t really draw people in any further.
The other issue is killer songs. They have got excellent material now. “Alpha Female”, “Big Cat” and “Get My Bang” were very good. Bold and funky, they were dance numbers which didn’t insult your intelligence.
It may be that the encore “Celestial Creatures” is the clincher. It finished with Thorpe silhouetted without a microphone. It was the standout of the evening.
Their approach put me in mind of St. Vincent who I saw at the venue a few years ago. It wasn’t until I did some research afterwards and realised that “Boy King” had been produced by John Congleton, who also produced the last LP by St. Vincent. They are both at a juncture. They’re filling decent size venues and producing successful acclaimed albums.
Where do they go next?