Tuesday, December 27, 2011

STN Albums Of The Year no.4: Wild Beasts - Smother

Already a team of all the interplay talents - those voices, Ben Little's chiming guitar, Chris Talbot's metronomic drums - Wild Beasts chose at a commercial and critical peak to take a step back from widespread approachability. Just four years after being introduced as an arrhythmic, angular band with a music hall sensibility, they've located a coherency in serenity. The arpeggiated guitars and propulsive drumming are still present but for the most part Smother strips away the excess angularity and finds a happy place where they can be their own men. The ambience, unfolding at its own pace and produced with extreme care to highlight every element and layer, takes influence from uncomfortable slow motion Talk Talk-like sparsity on one hand and subtly glowing, fluttering electronics on the other. Meanwhile Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming are at new peaks both vocally, Thorpe reining in his celebrated wayward countertenor falsetto into an almost lascivious come-on, and lyrically, refining their gregarious ideas about love and taking sentiments into darker, more internally conflicted places, sex as a tool of self-distrust rather than of quick pleasure. Completely wrapped in their own ideas of love gone sour and/or about to be taken in hand. It's no easy, passing listen, but it rewards all the effort.


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