Wild Beasts return with their fifth studio album, with dazzling arrangements, futuristic undertones and a compelling narrative of what it means to be 'man' in the 21st century.

Boy King - Wild Beasts

Boy King — Wild Beasts

4 stars

When you aim to combine the soulful pop music stylings of Justin Timberlake and the moody industrial rock of Nine Inch Nails, you have certainly set yourself a big old challenge. That's exactly what songwriter and singer Hayden Thorpe aimed to achieve when writing the material for this album. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the result will sound like either act.

 

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Given their pleasant pop-indie credentials, Wild Beasts were ambitious to take these as starting points, but Boy King has managed an oddly seductive and soulful grit. Being five albums into their career Thorpe recognised he couldn't continue writing in the same, comfortable manner in which he's used to. He needed to offer their fan base something surprising: "The only thing you can do from that point onwards is turn your vehicle into traffic and play chicken with yourself, and do all the things you said you'd never do."

The atmosphere throughout Boy King is dark, with soul-bearing lyrics and fuzzy guitar licks, but its melodic riffs and duetting falsetto vocals (for which Wild Beasts are renowned) keep things light and funky.

 

 

Caught somewhere between the shadowy content and androgynous vocals is Boy King himself: a man in crisis with ideas of masculinity that he can’t quite live up to—a crisis all too familiar among millennials and the youth of today.

Co-writer and guitarist Tom Fleming says: "There's a lot of 'he protests too much' you stick your chest out and think what a big d*** you've got, but really? Do you believe that?" then admits that, initially, they mocked those men... "but then we realised we were that, that we're part of the joke".

On a sonic level, everything is arranged beautifully, creating electronic soundscapes with ringings of sweet guitar complimenting the melody. It's a change in musical direction, from that typical 2010 indie-fun-twiddly-guitar-driven sound (not that I'm mocking this approach, this sound got their 2009 album Two Dancers nominated for a Mercury award) into something much more sophisticated. 

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Key tracks: “Alpha Female”, “2BU”, “Dreamliner”

Like this? You may also like: James Blake, Passion Pit, The Maccabees

 

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