Hearts of dark­ness

With their fifth al­bum, Wild Beasts have un­leashed an ‘emo­tional apoc­a­lypse’ of bru­tal, re­lent­less brash­ness. ‘I didn’t think we had this record in us’, front­man Hay­den Thorpe ad­mits to Lau­ren Mur­phy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

They have al­ways been the weirdos, the out­siders, the band that are just that lit­tle bit out-of-step with their peers. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the Wild Beasts who have just re­leased their fifth al­bum and the Wild Beasts who put out their de­but al­bum in 2008 is that they “fuck­ing em­brace it” these days, as front­man Hay­den Thorpe suc­cinctly puts it.

When the band were record­ing Boy King in Dal­las ear­lier this year, Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was be­gin­ning to gain mo­men­tum.

“I think that kind of cli­mate did play into the record,” Thorpe says, “in thatwe be­came more em­bold­ened to cel­e­brate be­ing dif­fer­ent, and our weird­ness amidst that kind of fear­ful and hate­ful rhetoric. We re­ally felt this sense of ‘I’m go­ing to be unashamed to be so weird and so dif­fer­ent’.”

Over the course of four very dif­fer­ent albums, Wild Beasts have be­come one of the most ex­cit­ing and in­no­va­tive bands on the mu­sic scene, shed­ding their skin with each re­lease and slip­ping into a dif­fer­ent mode, a dif­fer­ent style, a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing things. For Boy King, that meant “be­com­ing every­thing they were afraid of”, as Thorpe puts it.

“In fair­ness, we’ve never had the kind of Go­liath type of suc­cess­ful record that we’ve for­ever had to ad­here to – so our strength is in our cre­ative nim­ble­ness, as it we’re. We’re the tricky winger who can be the flair player,” he laughs .“In many ways with this record, we kind of be­came all of the things that we ob­jected to be­ing.

“The band started out as this kind of artis­tic vi­sion, with these high-minded ideas and ef­fem­i­nate pre­sen­ta­tion, and that was a re­sponse tothe ma­cho gritin rock at the time of our in­car­na­tion.

“There’s a real joy and lib­er­a­tion to be­com­ing that thing that you thought you’d never be,” Thorpe says, “and I’m kind of en­joy­ing be­ing that guy. I didn’t think we had this record in us, so it came as a sur­prise to me, too.”

‘Lad’’ cul­ture

Although they have pre­vi­ously touched upon themes of mas­culin­ity, sex and the con­cept of du­al­i­ties on songs such as All the

King’s Men and Play­thing, the ti­tle of their fifth record refers to the dom­i­nant theme of the “lad” cul­ture that per­me­ates so­ci­ety.

The con­cept is dot­ted lib­er­ally through­out the al­bum, un­der­lined by lyrics such as “Now I’m all fucked up and I can’t stand up/ I bet­ter suck it up, like a tough guy would”, “I like it messy, don’t you make it neat” and “We are vig­i­lantes, we’re on the streets, we’re run­ning free/ And you can have me any­time, just flaunt those come-to-bed eyes”.

Though Thorpe’s soar­ing fal- setto re­mains in­tact, the lush and del­i­cate mo­ments of their past albums are few and far be­tween on

Boy King, re­placed by a brutish, re­lent­less brash­ness, both lyri­cally and mu­si­cally.

“I guess it’s a fall­out record, a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic fall­out. And by apoc­a­lypse, I mean emo­tional apoc­a­lypse,” he says. “There’s very lit­tle ro­mance on the record, there are no love songs. It’s more about the sa­ti­a­tion and grat­i­fi­ca­tion of those very func­tional needs – those id de­sires, the car­nal de­sires of be­ing hu­man, I guess.

“It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of those as­pects, though, be­cause I guess the world teaches us to hide away our an­i­mal­is­tic ten­den­cies; we’re sup­posed to be higher-minded than that, we’re sup­posed to be bet­ter than that. And we’re not, y’know? They’re the mech­a­nisms by which the world goes around; they’re the mech­a­nisms by which we ex­ist.

“And I love that; there’s a joy­ous­ness to that,” Thorpe says. “That’s what mu­sic and art is for - to give some tan­gi­ble shape and sense to those parts of us which can’t be rec­on­ciled, which are so crazy and just a mess.

“It’s car­nage in there,” he laughs. “And y’know, good luck to you if you don’t feel like that, but my god, I do. So the Boy King was a kind of myth­i­cal al­ter-ego - this kind of all-con­quer­ing, all-pow­er­ful male fig­ure, this hy­per-male that is big­ger and more pow­er­ful than I’ll ever be. But I get to be the guy that chan­nels him.”

Tap­ping into that pruri­ency is a re­sult of both ex­pe­ri­ence as a mu­si­cian and in life, he says.

“I’m 30 now, and what has come wit habit of ageist here a li­sa­tion that the dark­ness, the abyss, is the real fuel. And rather than make mu­sic that turns away from it, it’s ac­tu­ally a case of har­ness­ing that dark­ness, turn­ing in to it. That was a real break­through for me–that my dark sideisas­power--

The world teaches us to hide away our an­i­mal­is­tic ten­den­cies; we’re sup­posed to be higher-minded than that, we’re sup­posed to be bet­ter than that. And we’re not

ful as my light side.”

The quar­tet have em­braced the dark­ness mu­si­cally as well, judg­ing by the au­di­ble sense of grime un­der­neath the fin­ger­nails of these songs. 2014’s Present

Tense caught many off-guard with its in­cur­sions into bullish elec­tron­ica and syn th pop–par­tic­u­larly af­ter the soft, im mer sive th rob of 2012’s Smother, which paid homage to the likes of Talk Talk and Blue Nile, the lat­ter a long-stand­ing in­flu­ence on Thorpe.

Angst, en­ergy

Boy King picks up where they left off in 2014.“We’ve men­tioned Nine Inch Nails a lot, and The

Down­ward Spi­ral as an al­bum that re­ally gal­vanised us and made us re­alise there was a huge emo­tional res­o­nance to that kind of heavy mu­sic; that dis­tor­tion and weight,” he says of their mu­si­cal touch­points this time around. “It spoke to our angst and our en­ergy, and that re­ally changed things. “I heard the song A Warm

Place and that re­ally blew me away, be­cause it was made in 1994 and it re­minded me of Burial, or some­thing. I be­gan to re­alise that these del­i­cate, soul­ful songs that we were mak­ing could ac­tu­ally tol­er­ate the harder, dis­torted sounds – and they could be­comem­ore emo­tion­ally pow­er­ful. That was a big im­pact on us.

“A good ex­am­ple of that is the song Closer, which has the cho­rus ‘I wanna f**k you like an an­i­mal’ and is this self-loathing, kind of masochis­tic, funky sex song, I sup­pose. That in it­self was an in­spi­ra­tion, just that au­dac­ity.”

So Wild Beasts push the en­ve­lope and strive to avoid re­peat­ing them­selves with each al­bum . But that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they have a long-term strat­egy in mind.

“As long as we’re a rel­e­vant ve­hi­cle for ex­pres­sion for our­selves, then I guess we’re still a liv­ing, breath­ing or­gan­ism,” Thorpe says. “I cer­tainly have no de­sire to be a her­itage band; I have no de­sire to keep flog­ging the cir­cuit and keep rolling out ‘Wild Beasts albums’. To me, that sounds like sub­ur­ban death. I hope we re­alise, when the su­per­nova comes, that we can get out of the way. But bands are like nu­clear re­ac­tors, and they do have a half-life.”

Thorpe has spent the last few days in Leeds, vis­it­ing his old haunts and re­flect­ing upon what the Hay­den that pushed Limbo,

Panto ten­ta­tively out into the world, hop­ing that it would sail and not sink, would think.

Wanna come­back

“I went for a run around my old haunts and it was kind of creepy, tak­ing pic­tures of the houses that I lived in,” he ad­mits with a chuckle. “But it was a nice sen­sa­tion to stand out­side these houses as the guy I am now, and think: ‘Would you take this po­si­tion now’ – that boy who moved into that ter­raced, red-brick house in a run-down es­tate in Leeds – and be able to an­swer ‘F**k, yeah’. ‘Would you wanna come back to Leeds in 10 years, hav­ing recorded your fifth al­bum in Texas? F**k, yeah.’

“I don’t credit us be­ing in this po­si­tion be­cause of any sort of in­nate ta­lent or gift; it’s just come from be­ing able to hold our nerve, and be­ing will­ing to take it.

“Be­ing the out­sider,” he says, sigh­ing con­tent­edly. “Even­tu­ally, it pays off.”

Boy King is out now on Domino. Wild Beasts play Elec­tric Pic­nic on Septem­ber 4th

“I guess it’s a a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic fall­out. And by apoc­a­lypse, I mean emo­tional apoc­a­lypse.”

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