When they emerged from Kendal around seven years ago, Wild Beasts seemed the sort of band that would arouse titters and charm critics but quickly disappear, their unusual falsetto-sung songs with waltz time signatures and references to masculinity and sexual organs proving too challenging for anywhere remotely near the mainstream. However, here they are, with a Top 10 album – Present Tense, their fourth – and packing out one of Manchester's most stunning venues.
"What a beautiful building," says frontman Hayden Thorpe, surveying the former Wesleyan chapel's stained glasses windows and crucifixes, and these days managing to resist the obvious joke about the huge organ behind him.
The Beasts have changed, though, and the addition of synthesisers has given them a grace and grandeur reminiscent of Japan or Talk Talk. The quirky edges remain, but in different guises: the sub bass that shakes the building; Thorpe's use of his heavenly falsetto to deliver intelligent insights and uncompromising lyrics (attacking bands who sing in American accents), such as: "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck."
They look different, too, now with 1950s quiffs, while Tom Fleming's wooly hat and vest gives him the aura of a brickie who picked up a guitar instead of a jackhammer and proceeded to make beautiful shimmering noise. There's something particularly down–to–earth about their lyrics about dogs, and in the way Thorpe illustrates delicate, dreamlike songs such as the synth-pop A Simple Beautiful Truth and Sparks-ish Lion's Share by flailing around like a wounded animal.
Their use of green lasers during the more physical songs, such as Daughters, makes things feel like a ghostly rave. As the particularly stunning last 40 minutes produces an audience ovation and a visibly moved Thorpe raises his glass, it feels like they have sealed one of British pop's most refreshing triumphs.
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