I remember my first encounter with Wild Beasts. It was the February of 2014, and I waited with dread for my 12th Board exams, when I came across a typical NME headline lauding St Vincent’s self-titled album and Wild Beasts’ Present Tense, and claiming the day that both the albums were released as one of the best days in music release history. It was a typical hyperbole filled title, yet it piqued my interest. Immediately after my boards got over, I picked up both of the albums. I especially fell in love with Present Tense, and after multiple listens, I am glad that I got to listen to the album. Soon after, the discography of the band followed.
Wild Beasts were one of the most exciting acts that UK had to offer, creating a niche for themselves that combined art-pop-rock with equal measures of tender yet sensual lyrics and tongue in cheek satirical observatory lyrics. They have now proceeded to rip that comfort space apart and feed them to the wolves. That’s the only explanation for the singles that they had released prior to the release. Straight up pop songs, with a more direct lyrical approach, weren’t exactly met with warm reception from their elder fans, accustomed of a certain type of art-pop. Such are Wild Beasts, never satisfied in their own skin, constantly challenging themselves. The album starts off with Big Cat, and it’s immediately apparent that there’s no subtlety, and the lyrics are bang, right in your face. Tough Guy is a similar effort, with a particularly maddening finish to the song.
The lead single, Get My Bang, has polarized opinions amongst listeners. However, I felt it was a particularly suave, sexy effort, reminiscing Nine Inch Nails in their older days, when Trent Reznor was still sexy, synths were strafing and drums were pounding. The vocalists, Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming are on fine form as usual, with Tom particularly shining on his brief moments on the wonderfully asymmetric 2BU and the highly satirical Ponytail. It is in some regards their spriteliest album to date, clocking in at a perhaps brief 37 minutes. The album ends with Dreamliner, a soft, ANOHNI-based piano ballad, which provides a relaxing, fragile sort of state to an otherwise relentless record. Thus, one criticism can be levelled against the album that it does not allow to build itself other than a collection of 10 expertly written pop songs.
The lyrics in the album can be seen as a continuation of their earlier works, however with a different perspective. It captures the crumbling fragility and the toxicity of contemporary masculinity from the perspective of a group of people intelligent enough to see this form the outside looking in. However, the music of the album counteracts against it, in contrast to their previous albums where the music complemented it and reacted to “hyper-masculine aggressive rock gesture”. There is a brutality, a forcefulness to this record.
Raw, dirty, sexual, ballsy. All those terms, which is least expected in a Wild Beasts album, yet is present on Boy King. It’s a fantastic album no doubt, yet it feels like the uniqueness of their art form is somewhat missing. However their ability and unwillingness to buckle down to expectations should and will guarantee them true greatness sooner or later.