"Two Dancers" by Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts
Two Dancers

Domino
2009

Review

This album has the unique distinction of having the most - shall we say - unique "don't fuck with me" song I've ever heard. I mean, "Hooting and Howling" clearly was written in the persona of a true to life bad-mofo, and yet the singing is in the most falsetto of falsettoist (think Freddie Mercury run through a Maxwell filter...if that makes sense at all?). Anyhow, this album is going to tickle the fancy of any fan of Grizzly Bear fan which is to say that I was all over it.

Though there are at least two singers in Wild Beasts, I'm going to say that Hayden Thorpe's falsetto is going to be the make it or break it for most listeners. Because from the opener "The Fun Powder Plot" you know you're in for something different. I mean, this voracious falsetto is of the type that you won't often find on mainstream radio (unless you know of some damned cool radio stations?). I mean, this man's voice is downright operatic. It's the oddest freaking annunciation I've ever heard and while I love it, I can understand if you don't. Dude has one speed and that's "full-throttle". This isn't to say that the other singers are slouches. No no no! Far from it. In fact the other voices - though they are a bit more subdued in the performance - represent some serious pipes. It's just that we go from "Of Montreal" levels of lunacy to a more "Editors"-like delivery. This is not a bad thing, but I understand if you aren't ready for Mr. Thorpe's unique delivery...ok, maybe I better explain myself.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, "Hooting and Howling" is the introduction to a group of riff raff that you don't want to mess with...at least from a lyrical perspective. As we Hip-Hoppers say, peep game:

Any rival who goes for our girls will be left thumb sucking in terror and bereft of all coffin bearers
... Now I'm not saying the lads always deserve a braying
And I'm not saying the girls are worth the fines I'm paying
We're just brutes bored in our bovver boots

...ok, so I'll grant you that the bad mofo has a decent vocabulary ("bereft" and "braying"), but the sentiment is real. Now try to listen to the preview up over there and you'll hear a voice that you probably wouldn't expect to hear such bad-assery from. So if you can dig it, you're going to love this. If not, then there's always alternatives. There are real layers to the lyrics here as well but they are the sort of lyrics that you can either take at face value or attempt to extrapolate further (for example, "Two Dancers (I)" is either about a parent who's child becomes a lost cause, or man's fall from grace...or something else that is entirely open to your interpretation).

Like Grizzly Bear, the music is very layered and there's lots of emphasis on building compositions. For an example of the contrast in styles between singers, compare "All The Kings Men" to "Hooting and Howling". "All The Kings Men" has seemingly strange vocals in the beginning. Then the other voice comes in and cot damn, does he hit the high-notes. This second singer I think is equally as effective and provides a nice change in pace. You'll be singing along with the "ooh/ooooh/oooh-oooh/uh-uh-oh/oh-oh" in no time.

There's so much to like here and I love that it doesn't necessarily take itself all that seriously. Take the standout "We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues" where the band asks "What's so wrong with a little fun?" Musically the song starts off a bit serious. Then the weird voice comes in that is later revealed to be the annunciation of the "ongue" in "tongue" from the chorus. Later, it's almost a dance song. But you can tell that the band is really just having fun...and the song is educational too! Did you know that "Trousers and blouses make excellent sheets/down dimly lit streets". Wow! I learn something every day!

I could go on and on about this record because I really, really enjoyed the heck out of it. I'm all over this layered weird singer stuff and if you are too, you're going to have a blast here. There are moments here that make me want to go out and see the band live such as the seemingly epic (because it really isn't that long, but it sounds HUGE) "Two Dancers (I)" and especially the "it has to kill live but slightly underwhelms on the record" "Empty Nest". Just listen to "Hootin and Howling" and you'll know right away whether or not this is for you.

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The Fun Powder Plot (05:35) 4
2. Hooting & Howling (04:35) 5
3. All the King's Men (03:59) 5
4. When I'm Sleepy (02:09) 3
5. We Still Got the Taste Dancin' on Our Tongues (04:35) 5
6. Two Dancers (i) (04:06) 5
7. Two Dancers (ii) (02:37) 3
8. This Is Our Lot (04:32) 4
9. Underbelly (01:54) 3
10. Empty Nest (03:24) 3
11. Through the Iron Gat (05:42)