Wild Beasts: Two Dancers | CD review


It's rare a British band arrives quoting lines of poetry. It used to be commonplace, music being the obvious career option for earnest, over-educated types light on social skills but eager to compensate by being really very clever (hello Morrissey, Thom Yorke et al).

Recently, however, it hasn't paid to be well-read, not if you're a certain kind of guitar act. Money and status have all too often been the dominant yardsticks during a musical decade characterised by the kind of nonsensical self-promotion more in keeping with Apprentice contestants - endless, specious claims to be "the biggest" or "the best" from yet another Argos U2 or Primark Oasis.

So when Hayden Thorpe, singer with Cumbrian newcomers Wild Beasts, last year explained his band's aesthetic by quoting Philip Larkin's "High Windows", specifically the line, "When I see a couple of kids/ And guess he's fucking her ... I know this is paradise", it was a welcome flash of imagination, suggesting a band whose horizons weren't solely limited to filling Wembley Arena.

Twelve months later, the quartet's second album is a wonderful, successful revival of indie rock's once staple but often forgotten values of wit and intellect, both themes traditionally accompanied by a tentative, thwarted sexuality but here enhanced, rather marvellously, by an excitable lust for life in general.

The combination of Thorpe's vibrating falsetto and spindly guitars might evoke fey 80s groundbreakers the Associates and Edwyn Collins, but the "bovva boot ballet" of "Hooting & Howling", about kids misbehaving just for kicks, is pure Clockwork Orange, with the voyeuristic Thorpe inevitably both "thrilled and appalled".

This might be the standard high-brow fascination with all things base, but at least Thorpe is putting it to decent use. Plus the poignant "Underbelly", which ponders the helplessness of birth and old age without too much cliche, suggests the band's literary sensibility is no student put-on.

The obvious ceiling on their commercial appeal hardly matters: Wild Beasts are in the fine tradition of bands more interested in collecting an audience of like minds. In other words, they're classic outsiders.


Gareth Grundy

The GuardianTramp

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