WILD BEASTS Smother (Domino)
I’ve been mildly annoyed by Wild Beasts’ second album, “Two Dancers”, its falsetto vocals being particularly uningratiating, but this, their third, happily ratchets up the excellence a bit. I’ve heard the band compared to Talk Talk, but that seems a bit of a reach to me. On tracks such as opener “Lion’s Share” I’d posit them as Antony fronting Ultravox, all unreadable sexuality and icy European electro-throb. It segues abruptly into “Bed Of Nails”, more classically pop but equally outré, its clean and crisp music left smudged and grimy by ambiguous lyrics. “Loop The Loop” typifies the commercial nous at the album’s core; it’s not a difficult listen, superficially, but gauzy and mysterious nevertheless. The sparse and unsettling “Plaything”could be a long-lost Joy Division outtake, albeit here given a plush upholstering in something blood red and velvety. On “Albatross” and “Reach A Bit Further” the rhythm and melody accrete, pointillist-style, from pattering and chiming across the soundstage that, in an odd way, suggests Wilco circa “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. “Burning” doesn’t so much have a tune as the wheezy respiration of an ageing accordion, to which dozens of tiny bells have been tied, to keep it company. “End Come Too Soon” is an accomplished closer that sounds like a real summation of everything that’s gone before. Really, though, “Smother” is a remarkably consistent album with no real standouts but in possession of a clarity and consistency of vision that’s a rarity nowadays.
“Smother” arrives wrapped in appropriately lavish packaging. In addition to the well-pressed, fine-sounding LP itself (“180gm heavyweight virgin vinyl” according to the cover sticker) there’s a double-sided art print in the style of the cover art, a copy of the CD booklet and a voucher to download the album in your choice of MP3 or WAV formats. Woohoo!