Wild Beasts | Pop review

Garage, London

Hayden Thorpe's voice has been called "divisive". This is a polite way of describing the three-octave whoop that makes Wild Beasts sound unlike any other young British guitar group. And divisive it is: when his falsetto was in fruity flow during this show, even the most partisan fan – and there were plenty of them – would have had to admit that Thorpe sounded a tad like 1960s novelty star Tiny Tim. On the other hand, it eminently suited his band's florid music.

The Leeds-based Beasts can be loosely grouped with Morrissey and Antony and the Johnsons, though their gigs don't exclusively revolve around a sole charismatic frontman. While it was Thorpe who delivered the memorable moments – piercing the air with the cry "This is a booty call!" during The Fun Powder Plot, caressing the ambiguous lyric of Please, Sir with a self-absorption Morrissey would have envied – the other three Beasts weren't just drones tasked with creating a cinematic backdrop for Thorpe. Guitarist Tom Fleming even got to sing the best line of the night, from the title track of their new album, Two Dancers: "His hairy hands, his falling fists, his dancing cock down by his knees."

By current pop standards, these are odd songs – literate, outsiderish and obsessed with sex – but they captivated this audience. Hooting & Howling, a sketch of Saturday-night yobbery in their native Kendal set to a tense bassline, even got them dancing. Thorpe was at his most operatic here, embellishing the chorus, "We're just brutes, bored in our bovver boots", with all manner of swoops and flourishes. Somehow, it wasn't ridiculous. Definitely worth seeing, these unusual Beasts.

At The Gate, Cardiff on 22 October. Box office: 029 2048 3344. Then touring.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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