The return of Kendall wonders the Wild Beasts feels like the arrival of spring following months of the 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 album's 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 soundtracking 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.
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.
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.
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 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 12 July 2014
New to Wild Beasts? Not Sure? Well I can tell you their 2nd,3rd and 4th albums are amazing quality.
Present Tense is great - Mecca at its heart is simply one of the best songs written this decade. Epic.
Smother - the previous album is a work of genius - every song has an edge - each track a hybrid
of sparkling 80s pop synth and brooding melancholic rock sensibilities.
Two Dancers - outstanding record - more catchy than the others I suppose, but ever so idiosyncratic,
soft in places but also powerful and intense.
They are quite simply my new favourite band and that's only been the case for about two weeks.
I am listening to all 3 albums at once and I can tell you that they have a unique quality - an edge,
whilst also reminding me of such favourite acts as Anthony and The Johnsons (falsetto and in terms
of melancholic / surreal style) and even muse - rampaging tunes with a sense of heaviness
in places. The boys doing the singing get their harmonies just right but what stands out is just
the sheer quality of their song writing.
They are a sensitive band without being cheesy or over egging it - they also take risks on
each album. Rocking on but also making beautiful sounds that will lift your spirits.
They tackle lots of paranoid/ humanistic themes in their lyrics which strangely sits happily
with sometimes very cheerful or tinkly riffs.
If you are new to Wild Beasts then I would buy this, but at the same time get the previous two
albums and listen to them all together.....it really is that good.
Fave tracks on Present Tense are Wanderlust, dMecca, Pregnant Pause, A Dogs Life and Past Perfect.
Faves on Smother are Lions Share, Bed of Nails, Loop The Loop, Reach A Bit Further
Faves on Two Dancers, The Fun Powder Plot, We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues, Two Dancers (i)
Though I must add I struggle to find a weak track at the moment.
And no I have not listened to their debut yet........I'm saving that one for the summer holidays......
on 16 October 2016
4 VERY TALENTED GUYS from the LAKE DISTRICT produce another GREAT ALBUM !!
'NEW LIFE'; great track and lyrics with Tom Fleming taking the lead, WARM AND BLIND / GROPING IN THE BRINY DEEP,
SING LUNGS SING / WORLD CLEAVE OPEN ! I absolutely love this song; so minimal but yet so effective.
'A DOGS LIFE'; I cannot believe these guys came up with this track. Starts off with Tom again and guitar work which just
draws you in, the track just builds and builds and then BOOM, after the line 'HOLD THE PHONE UP TO ITS FACE', this
track just goes up into the stratosphere !
Completely and utterly one of the best things this band has ever done !!
'MECCA'; a super intro and once again outstanding lyrics 'YEAH, HOW WE FEEL NOW WAS FELT BY THE ANCIENTS',
a great line and very poignant. Good vocals from Hayden on this one.
'NATURE BOY'; apparently part inspired by 'JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS'. Well he has definitely inspired this track very well
as this is just another absolute cracker on this album. 'DRIPPIN IN GOLD HE COMES' / OOOOH YES HE DOES IT ALL'
How very apt indeed !
'PREGNANT PAUSE'; this is quite an intimate and moving song between 2 lovebirds and the lyrics again are fantastic,
these guys REALLY ARE on another level. 'THERE IS A TONGUE THAT WE SPEAK IN / NO ONE ELSE GOT THE MEANING',
'SPEAK TO ME IN OUR TONGUE' / A PILLOW TALK PATOIS FROM A LAND LONG GONE'. Great vocals again from Hayden
and I love the ending of this song
The rest of this album is unmissable; I cannot recommend it enough to all you music lovers out there !
Please give this album a try with an open mind and I hope that you find what I did; A SEMINAL PIECE OF WORK.
These guys are very underrated and this album also; I bought 2 copies of this as I do like
physical product and I listen to the songs on a regular basis and don't want the CD getting scratched !
***** Tom / Ben / Chris / Hayden - THANK YOU ! *****
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 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...
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.