on 2 March 2014
Wild Beasts continue to make beautiful, artfully crafted music, with this album continuing the refinement of their style which we have seen through their first three. A must have.
Wild Beasts are a marmite proposition but I found that, with a few exposures to the Two Dancers I quickly went from 'WTF is this' to 'this is different' to, finally 'this is amazing.'
And so it continued into Smother and now this, Present Tense, their fourth album. All USP's are ticked, the falsetto voice playing counterproint to the husky drawl, the studenty type lyrics from youngsters high on literary references, the minor chord pieces that steam train along, slow speed but utterly unstoppable momentum.
Present Tense is more of the same we've come to expect but if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Again it takes a few listens to appreciate what's going on here, I find that my all time favourite albums are ones I didn't get or even like upon first listen and this is no exception.
Of the three albums I have I think this is my favourite, the sound is maturing along with the band and the vocals are tricksy, inspired and very clever. Let us not forget the musical backcloth to all of this, the sound is beguiling. Somehow low key and at times barely there but it seems to have a force that cannot be countenanced.
Heady stuff, not for the musically uninitiated but if you are looking for a keeper of an album and are beyond pop fluff and empty sentiment give this a whirl.
The return of Kendall wonders the Wild Beasts is truly the arrival of spring following months of torrential deluge, There is a special ingredient about this British band in comparison to their contemporaries that suggests the upper reaches of the Premier league compared to the lower divisions of the crushingly indifferent indie music circulating at present. "Present Tense' is the long awaited fourth album from the Wild Beasts, and it builds on the electronica trend of the last album "Smother". Hayden Thorpe and crew took a decidedly "Kid A" style turn with the latter and abandoned guitars in favour of elegant sweeping synths, combined with deep seductive melodies and sophisticated soundscapes.
Some will argue that the dandy decadent edge of the band has suffered because of this which is probably true, but who is complaining when the music is quite this good. "Present Tense" commences with the single "Wanderlust" a thing of rich beauty, with crunching synths and a typically brilliant opening line "We're decadent beyond our means, with a zeal/We feel the things they'll never feel". Throughout the album the lyrical content is sharp, witty and often very funny. The vocal duties are as usual shared by Thorpe and the deeper tones of Tom Fleming. His performance on "Daughters" is stunning. It is one of the albums highlights, a sinister and slow piece of electronica that is utterly compelling, although the haunting penultimate track "New Life" is almost its match . This album also includes the bands most commercial moment to date in the lively "A Simple Beautiful Truth" a piece of pop perfection which would not go amiss sound tracking the sun going down on a Mediterranean Isle.
Throughout the quality never dips and the listener can safely be pointed to other songs which will intrigue and compel. Fleming again takes the vocal lead on "Nature Boy" and you sense this is the type of music that James Blake is struggling to make. It is cut from a dark hue and sees Fleming declare "Your only joy, only bliss/Your lady wife around his hips". Thorpe however matches ever move not least on the beautiful bubbling closer "Palace" a song that has already been subject in this house to more repeats than "Dad's Army".
"Present Tense" like all Wild Beasts albums reveals its charms with some discretion. On repeated listens this reviewer has also been drawn to "Sweet Spot" which is more like the Wild Beasts of "Two Dancers" comprising dual vocals by Thorpe and Fleming. As ever we forget at our peril the brilliance of the musicians behind the two vocalists Ben Little (guitar, keyboards) and Chris Talbot (drums, vocals) who brilliantly anchor this wonderful music. This year has already seen some great album releases but there is little doubt that "Present Tense" will occupy a very high place in the 2014 end of year polls, its that good.
on 5 March 2014
I hold their previous 3 albums albums in high stead and was hoping this new one would be just as good. Thankfully it is, if not better.
Wild Beasts are a little different from other bands and better for it in my opinion. Introspective and reflective in places, the album is consistently strong and melodic. The odd burst of synth is a welcome addition and overall it is a very enjoyable listen.
on 5 October 2014
This album is astonishing and is surely their best yet. It is a highly original, cohesive, addictive, minimalistic album and I can't stop listening to it from beginning to end - it is the sort of album you can get lost in.
The interplay between Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto and Tom Fleming’s rich lower registers really works on this album, the unique percussion excellent and the electronics warm and detailed, all wrapped up in superb production. There are some fantastic lyrics on here too; "In detail you are even more beautiful than from afar. I could learn you like the blinded would do. Feeling away through the dark" (from track "Palace").
Whilst all songs are excellent (there is absolutely no filler) and deserve to be played in album order, if I was pressed, my favourites on the album would be "Wanderlust", "Mecca", "Sweet Spot", "A Simple Beautiful Truth" and "Palace". I'd only heard "Wanderlust" and their first album when I saw them headline End of the Road festival last month and I was mesmerised with their set. This is a very beautiful maybe even uplifting album, but there is a detectable unease or discomfort in this album I can't quite place here, possibly as a band, a seductive chemistry that makes them all that more interesting.
Wild Beasts are very special and my new favourite band; Present Tense their masterpiece and a modern classic. Highly recommended.
on 27 March 2014
First I've ever heard of this band having bought the album following reading a review in a national paper. Do this quite often with varying results but this time it was an out and out winner. Every track is great but the stand out one for me is Mecca, which has got the lot. I can't see that you could ever categorise Wild Beasts nor should we try. They've got their own thing going on and credit to them. Just bought their previous album, Smother, and will now give this a good airing too.
on 11 May 2014
Singer/guitarist Hayden Thorpe and singer/bassist Tom Fleming constitute one damn fine and distinguished songwriting team within the Alternative/Indie genre, and Wild Beasts' fourth full-length release, "Present Tense", is the British band's most ambitious, focused and accomplished album to date (as of 2014). Present Tense could very well be Wild Beasts' "Black Celebration", the album that took Depeche Mode to new heights, both creatively and commercially", with its tales of yearning, lust, and sexual debauchery, and its emphasis on both vintage and modern synth sounds. The album is a joy to listen to from start to finish: the songwriting, musicianship and production, it's all impeccable, and despite the sparse arrangements/instrumentation the songs all sound full-bodied and powerful.
on 2 June 2014
I totally loved the first 2 Wild Beasts albums, especially 2 Dancers. Smother was a bit tame but still good.
When I heard Wonderlust I had high hopes because it's a great song but the rest of the CD left me with a sinking feeling. It's a bit dull to be honest.
on 9 April 2014
An exceptional album that manages to surpass their previous releases. This is probably their most commercial and I've read reviews that have said it isn't as "raw" as their earlier work, but maybe it's time they broadened their appeal. It is difficult to choose a standout track as they are all clever creations, but if I had to pick it would be "A Simple Beautiful Truth" and "Sweet Spot" which I absolutely love.
on 16 March 2014
The day before I heard this album for the first time I was struck by the 10/10 review on my favourite music site Line of Best Fit (which is no mean feat I may add). I had already been looking forward to the record, but that review pushed my expectations to dizzying heights. I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed!
As with many 4th albums, I feel 'Present Tense' very much condenses all the separate elements of the band's entire discography into a potent, polished whole. It doesn't have the same bravado as 'Two Dancers' but it isn't as subdued as 'Smother', although there are moments which challenge both extremes. Perhaps the most notable sonic change is the introduction of more synths, which are masterfully used to create a range of textures.
'Wanderlust' is a driving introduction which immediately introduces Wild Beast's new electronic sonic elements. Despite it's momentum it still feels like a 'soft' song with a lot of warmth to it.
'Nature Boy' is simply badass. The off kilter drum beat plods along as Haydens crooning snarl over a sprawling soundscape of clawing guitars and expansive synths.
'Mecca' is lead by Tom's softer vocals and it quickly builds into an awesome crescendo of rising synths and clattering drums. There is a suave momentum about it which is really held together by Tom's voice, and the ringing guitars they unleash after the bridge just sound... triumphant. This is one of those songs that you just can't get enough of.
'Sweet Spot' is more delicate than anything before it; the title sums it up well. The interplay between Hayden and Tom's vocals here is glorious, and there is a really classy synth line towards the end which gives the track an enjoyably retro edge.
'Daughters' is perhaps the darkest track on the record and carries a sinister air about it. It is fairly slow and Hayden leads vocals whilst the band creates atmosphere around him. The pleasure in this track is much about the details in it's soundscape, although it explodes into a 'destroyer of worlds' when a ricocheting synth is unleashed at the climatic moment.
'Pregnant Pause' is a total contrast of 'Daughters'; it is a gorgeously tender love song. Tom sings on this one and his vocal is really the centerpiece; the rest of the band keeps it fairly stripped back to emphasise this. It's the first song where Chris's drums don't dominate and I think the sparser feel gives the song a really supple tone.
'A Simple Beautiful Truth' is probably the best song I've heard this year. It combines everything that is great about this record. There is a simply wonderful airy synth hook which I could listen to for days on it's own. The drums clatter all over the place, but still sound refined and the bass riff gives it a great driving momentum. This track sees an interplay between both singer's vocals which is always a pleasure to hear, especially as both voices collide with an expansive wave of synthesised magic on the chorus.
'A Dog's Life' returns to a darker feeling after the elation of the last track. This track is has a great atmosphere and Hayden returns with some of the badass crooning he delivered back on 'Nature Boy'.
'Past Perfect' is one of my favourite tracks here. Tom provides a gorgeous vocal hook and the rest of the band create really spacious and warm soundscape which is filled with complex evolving details. It's exquisite.
'New Life' is the record's slowest track and would work very well as an album closer. Hayden sings over a reverbrating synth backdrop and the whole track builds to a desperate climax which still maintains remarkable restraint. Wild Beasts really use the minimum that they need to in order to create their shadowy atmosphere.
Whilst 'New Life' would make a great end to a remarkable record, Wild Beasts still have one more fascinating trick up their sleeves with 'Palace'. True to it's name, it is something of a sonic palace; like 'Mecca' there is a decidedly triumphant feeling here. The textured guitar line drives forward a delicate, expansive synth soundscape and Tom sings at the highest note he can muster. This is a true fuzzy goosebump song and a momentous album closer.
I haven't even mentioned the lyrics in this review, which I think are spectacular.
I love Wild Beast's previous work, but this is something else. I gave myself a good few weeks to digest the record unless time proved me wrong, but so far it shows no sign of wearing off on me. This is the best album I've heard since Janelle Monáe's 'ArchAndroid' in 2010, itself one of the best records for a good few years. This is no small claim either, because I listen to a lot of modern music with a very diverse sonic palette.
As if a bonus was needed, they are touring with East India Youth at the moment, who dropped an absolutely spectacular album in January. That live show will be a real spectacle, I can't wait to see it.
They really decided to 'reach a bit further' with this one...