Review: Wild Beasts – Present Tense
Published on March 17th, 2014 | Luke Cartledge
On “Palace”, the final track of Wild Beasts’ fourth LP Present Tense, Hayden Thorpe sweetly croons the following lines: “In detail you are/Even more beautiful than from afar”.
This lyric neatly sums up much of the Kendal four-piece’s output, particularly since their second album Two Dancers shook off much of the excitable melodrama that characterised their early releases.
They are a band whose sound requires close scrutiny to truly reveal its treasures, an act that richly rewards dedicated listeners. On Present Tense, they stick to this theme.
Although the record’s icy synths and crackling percussion parts are far more brazen than anything on Smother, the band’s mournful third effort, beneath these uncharacteristically aggressive soundscapes lie some of the most delicate and mesmerising moments yet recorded by Wild Beasts.
From the watery guitar chimes that gently propel “Sweet Spot” to the beautifully constructed ripple of the rhythm section on “Past Perfect” (Chris Talbot here cementing his place as one of Britain’s most inventive drummers of recent years), the band constantly lead the listener through musical twists and turns that, though sometimes unexpected, never feel less than completely natural.
A review of the record would be incomplete without some acknowledgement of the astonishing vocal performances on show here. Thorpe’s instantly recognisable falsetto has never sounded so controlled and vulnerable, nor has it ever combined to more dazzling effect with Tom Fleming’s rich, honeyed baritone.
On each album they release, Wild Beasts manage to expand their sonic parameters without ever losing the essence of what makes them so special. Present Tense is the purest distillation of that essence yet.
Present Tense is out now on Domino.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!