Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beast's lead singer, sees a “beautiful symmetry” in their return to the black mountains, quite literally as Big Cats at the top of the food chain, to paraphrase their second single from new album Boy King. And of this new album, it’s a dystopian view of the world that finds its power in the truths hidden within the “absurd”. This seems like something they have encouraged as you could easily imagine the front cover of Boy King on a novel by Asimov, Huxley or Clarke. The synths and samples also have a science fiction feel to them, as if from a world set in a future that never came to pass, and they pair this masterfully with an upfront directness in the songwriting. It might seem strange to then say that this is the first time they have gone for a more traditional 'rock' feel with the grooves, but the impeccable choice of sonics, the restraint, and the space left around them allows this record to breathe in a way that they never have before. It is a brave new world they developed in London and then took to Dallas, Texas and, specifically, John Congleton (Swans, St Vincent, David Byrne). Under his supervision they have honed the songs into the swaggering, bold record we now have with dynamics that add a weight to the content of the songs.
It is worth remembering that Wild Beasts haven’t arrived from nowhere as a fully formed headline act, they have been on the circuit a long time and it is testament to them that they have grown at their own pace and on their own terms. Festivals have long been an opportunity for new bands to play in front of bigger audiences than they are used to and it can be an amazing platform for their careers. Wild Beasts are one of the many bands to have benefited from these performances over the years and Hayden puts a real emphasis on the reception they received at Green Man in 2008 shortly after the release of their first album, the “strange outsider record” Limbo, Panto. I was actually in the crowd for this set and remember it fondly, as does Hayden: “Yes I remember that show very well. It was an incredibly important one for us at the time.” He added “The affirmation and acceptance we felt at that show in the tent instilled a belief and a belonging. It might sound grandiose, but we have never had a reception like that before. We took it with us.”
Speaking about the record and its themes, Hayden admits to being a “clutter of superstition and hoodoo” and that "much mention of the outside world is quickly dispelled and stamped on. It’s a kind of trick you have to play on yourself.” A trick that the greatest artists have always known about, explored and eventually exploited. if you think of Bowie, Prince or Dylan, for example, then you think of the personas and characters they built as a conduit for their message. The Boy King feels like the next in line of this particular musical heritage, something that Hayden seems keen to embrace “We transcended ourselves with this record, the Boy King is more than we are, I’m looking forward to getting to be the guy who channels him.” And we are looking forward to their headline performance. Catch Wild Beasts and their Boy King at the Far Out stage on Thursday night.
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