Monday, December 28, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 3

Having shown 00s indie guitar music a third way with the remarkable Limbo, Panto last year, Wild Beasts could have rested on their laurels for a year. The path they marked out is one that surely would reward further investigation, given the timidity of anyone else so far to fuse Associates ballroom murkiness, Smiths intrigue, Orange Juice limber funk and weapons grade obtuse lucidity. It is in truth far too close to call to say whether Two Dancers definitively bettered it, but it seems far more refined, slightly more in hock to the Eighties way of doing things without actually being retrogressive. It's a long held and expressed theory of ours that outside ra-ra and panstick signifiers at least the first half of that much maligned or over-romanticised decade was the sort of place where musical imagination and floridity was allowed to run unchecked, occasionally in the upper echelons of the public gaze. Two Dancers ended up charting at 68, but its sense of purpose and soaring coherency almost challenged those who didn't buy it to prove their own worthiness to regard whatever they preferred ahead of it.

Of course most of those people will answer with three words - "that bloke's singing" - but Hayden Thorpe's gurling falsetto is as much part of the core Wild Beasts lingua franca as the post-modern arcane language and the pin sharp rhythmic bloc, utilising vocals, guitar, bass, drums and the odd keyboard yet still so completely against what we now know as 'indie' in its guileless appropriation of what was left behind in the charge for Absolute Radio playlists. The vaudeville Morrisseyisms that crept into Limbo, Panto have largely been grown out of, though, this a very responsible album if not strictly an adult one despite some of the themes ("His hairy hands, his falling fists/hHs dancing cock down by his knees"? I see) The whole air is of something vaguely familiar but repurposed into something entirely their own, both in terms of basic sound and where they fit in, or don't. Take Hooting And Howling, in which radio echoes of Prefab Sprout's Cars And Girls are taken in a modified version of the first album's occasionally theatrical direction, rhyming "brutes" and "cahoots", while the ringing guitar is pointed into space and Chris Talbot's sympathetically driving tom-tom heavy work makes one of many attempts to justify his place as alt-pop's current most underrated drummer. The staccato funk white boy dance of All The King's Men sends out a clarion call to "girls from Roedean, girls from Shipley, girls from Hounslow, girls from Whitby" as Thorpe and Tom Fleming start out by impersonating each other - that's the former doing the monk's chorus and the latter shreiking "Watch me! Watch me!" - before the latter unpicks the desires and truths of the relationship game, sounding ungallant even when referring to potential girl interest as "birthing machines". The Fun Powder Plot is about the motivation behind Fathers 4 Justice, but if you didn't catch the lyrics "we cry for the cause because the courts have left us lonely/disowned us daddies like the poopers of the party" you'd never guess there was political intent behind the vaguely tropicalia undulating percussion and swinging like a modern guitar band isn't allegedly supposed to, let alone "this is a booty call, my boot up your arsehole". Because, unlikely as it might seem from some people who look like that, it's a very sexual record, or a record of sexuality. We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues shimmers with delight and opportunity out on the town, Thorpe declaring "when we pucker up our lips are bee-stung", putting poetry to casual carnal desire. It's hard to tell whether the two parts of the title track are really connected, but their Billy Mackenzie-ish dramatic urge means they can pass from our Fleming-voiced narrator being "pulled half-alive out of the sea" to calling someone an "unpluckable flower of the moon", with an undercurrent of poverty and street violence. This Is Our Lot might be their calling card, a sensitive paen to the young men "all quiffed and cropped", finding out what their emotions and later their bodies are for. Its rhythmic shifts, superb band interplay, unshowy but emotive and spectacular when is deemed necessary and arcane syntax around playful but carefully constructed notions make Two Dancers a timeless album. Timeless as in out of current time and place, or timeless as in one for the ages. Your choice.


All The King's Men

The full list

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