Few modern bands have ploughed their own furrow as distinctly as Cumbria’s Wild Beasts. Since Limbo, Panto in 2008, they have shape-shifted from effeminate, humorous, quirky art-pop with rude lyrics (“I swear by my own cock and balls”) to lush soundscapes of near-operatic grandeur (2014’s Top 10 Present Tense). Their fifth album tears up the plans again and features the most muscular grooves of their career. These songs are granite yet gossamer, with Hayden Thorpe’s glorious falsetto soaring over sleazy guitars and brutal funk on the likes of Tough Guy. The predominant influence seems to be the weirder end of 1970s/80s pop – from David Bowie’s Lodger to the Associates to Tackhead – while guitarist/co-singer Tom Fleming brings more of a Dave Gahan baritone, and the lyrics explore masculinity, sex and gender. Celestial Creatures and He the Colossus shimmer and prowl wantonly; Alpha Female, a male feminist anthem, is Sparks in industrial boots. Reinvention and liberation have brought the Beasts’ best yet.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author