Somewhere along the road to their new album, Boy King, Wild Beasts have ditched their silky art-pop for something that will stick them apart from the rest of whatever British indie rock is doing at the minute. But what exactly is British rock music doing right now? And where do Wild Beasts fit in? They aren’t Arctic Monkeys, or their AM Catfish And The Bottlemen / Blossoms descendants, or the Wolf Alices and Black Honeys. They fit somewhere near Foals, but even then, Boy King is much more poppy, taut and explicit. It’s been called a sexual album (but that’s not much new for Wild Beasts), but the band have called it an observation of modern masculinity. From the very first track, the restrained ‘Big Cat’, Thorpe reels off innuendo after innuendo, which comes off as a more cartoonish version of whatever they’re going for, drawing comparisons between big cats and domineering lovers and sex. The album really kicks on the second track, when the initial minimal electronic setup halts and turns into a funk-rock track with the introduction of bass. Sure, Wild Beasts can do quiet electronic come-ons, but they do occasionally need to the turn the volume up.
One track where they do turn up the volume is ‘Get My Bang’, one of the best singles of the year so far. It’s dark, moody and hyper-sexual, but not in the way that ‘Big Cat’ felt like a caricature. Thorpe takes on the character of someone who is refused sex and turns into a sulking child. It doesn’t sound like this is Thorpe’s actual persona, and writing from another perspective, one that you might not necessarily be sympathetic to, it creates an interesting study of that modern masculinity that Wild Beasts aim for. The instrumentation is a joy to hear, from the crisp drums, the backing vocals, Thorpe’s airy falsetto and the instrument which doesn’t appear to be a guitar, or a synth, but some kind of all-powerful in-between. It’s just a very good song, well written and perfectly performed. It might be subtle, but there’s lots of layers to admire every time. It also shows how little Wild Beasts care for genre; they don’t sound like an indie-rock band, or an indie-rock band playing around with electronics. It sounds like a genreless wonder.
It’s very hard to sum up the actual musical style that Wild Beasts went for on Boy King. There’s funky electro-rock, soul ballads, bursts of Vangelis electronica (especially if you hear the bonus track ‘Boy King Trash’) and bits in between. But they are all pulled off so well, nothing is weak. That’s because there’s a uniform theme and a dark atmosphere that covers the entire record that looks a bit like the album artwork – 80s videogame animation stylings with the same goth-pop and electronic influences from the same era. But unlike other bands, where currently the 80s is a goldmine, it doesn’t sound like the 80s. Sure, it might take a few bits and pieces, but it could be a record from any era onwards. It’s mysterious, and maybe that’s what is great about it. It’s hard to pin down, and even after listening to it several times, I’m still unsure as to what I really heard and how to peg it into a genre. It won’t let me, and maybe it shouldn’t be penned in.
Funnel Recommends: Tough Guy / Get My Bang / Celestial Creatures