Slinky, flamboyant and virile, ‘Boy King’ is characteristically Wild Beasts-esque. With interjection from the esteemed John Congleton (and his visionary and lucid production), Hayden Thorpe and company may just well have constructed their most accomplished and lustrous record to date. However, some might feel that the new direction is too antiseptic and uncharacteristic of the band that we formally fell in love with.
Lyrically, Thorpe is customarily perverted throughout the album. The eroticism spews forth, in a way that’s more evident than previous deliveries – “Take the collar off, baby…” Is asked on opener ‘Big Cat’. Elsewhere, we’re told that “she won’t come lightly/beautiful agony/but no-one can stop it once it starts” on the exhilarating ‘Ponytail’.
It’s seems that the brooding sexual imagery has become somewhat more pronounced. In previous albums, this dark and seedy lyrical edge was manifested in a subtler way, perhaps more tastefully. Without sounding prudish, it just feels that they’re attempting to live up to their reputation as deviant hedonists a little too hard. It would be a shame for it to become blasé of Wild Beasts.
Undeniably, the album itself is musically their most cultivated, which distracts from the small issue of the protruding perversions. It’s heavyweight, synth-led, well-written weird pop. The arrangements are stabbing with electronics (listen to the angular and sharp cuts in tracks like ‘Tough Guy’, ‘He The Colossus’ and ‘Celestial Creatures’).
But, being described in the press release as sounding like ‘Justin Timberlake meets Nine Inch Nails’ or being hailed as ‘a record for the Tinder generation’, it does all sound a bit neon and discreditable, despite those analogies being accurate and not-as-bad-as-it-sounds.
Although ‘Boy King’ is an enthralling and alluring record in the way that Wild Beasts do when creating music, it doesn’t yield much on repeated listens. In comparison to the former greatness of ‘Two Dancers’, ‘Smother’ or ‘Present Tense’, it’s a step too far into the polished and aromatic world that they’ve previously been outside of.
‘Beast’ (noun) – an animal, especially large or dangerous, with brutish or untamed characteristics.
Bring back the Beasts who were beastly.
Words by Jack Stevens
Wild Beasts release ‘Boy King’ on August 5th
Wild Beasts will play the Cambridge Junction on October 10th