"This is for those of us with enough intelligence and dignity to be out of England this weekend," announcedWild Beastsfrontman Hayden Thorpe towards the end of their set. “There’s this posh old lady that everyone’s making a fuss over. This is to say, fuck you cruel world, not tonight.” He was referring to the Queen’s Jubilee, in case you hadn’t guessed.
Often, bands making such grand, anti-establishment proclamations is enough to make one’s head shrink into one’s neck cavity. But Wild Beasts’ songs have always explored a broad spectrum of British culture that undoes the notion of the emotionally castrated “stiff upper lip,” and rarely applies pride when discussing the nation’s bawdy and broken ways. They’ve been touring Smother for a year now, after saying that they hadn’t intended to prolong its live lifespan to 2012’s festival season in part due to its broken-hearted, guilt-riven subject matter. I nearly put it away for the same reason, butSmother seemed an album ready to accommodate and account for regret, possessed of a sage sense of inevitability.
And in any case, it’d be a travesty to stop listening to such a sublime record, which has only magnified in brilliance over hard touring this past 12 months. Last night, baroque foil Tom Fleming’s voice on the “oh, OH-phelia” of opener “Bed of Nails” was as lusty as a weekend in avery isolated house, his and Hayden’s vocals forming a ripe and ribald streak through the more sensitive instrumentation. Live, as on “We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues” and many others, is where Wild Beasts’ Talk Talk-ish disco leanings manifest most strongly, thanks to drummer Chris Talbot’s snaky, smooth ways. “Albatross” even took on a sub-bass wobble.
It’s tempting to suggest that “Reach a Bit Further”, the song introduced by Thorpe’s anti-monarchist sentiments, felt dignified in its cracked-voice admission of coarseness (“I was angry and brash as a bull”). But it was rather contradicted by Fleming introducing the next song, a gauchely falsetto version of “All the King’s Men”, as “a single about fucking.” He flared his hands by the side of his head, to shriek, “Watch me! Watch me!” Still, with its “girls from Roedean/ Girls from Shipley/ Girls from Hounslow/ Girls from Whitby” acting as “candied queens” ready to be draped “in jewels” by boys, it’s a fine look at the daft and arbitrary ways in which we pledge ourselves as subjects to different people, a comedic, accurate take on respect and lack thereof. The piano-heavy “End Comes Too Soon” brought to a close a set that admirably demonstrated why Wild Beasts are a band worth pinning your colours to.
- Pitchfork’s Primavera Saturday Report