Depravity reigns supreme in today’s intellectual music circles. It seems the more ripped up and worn down you sound, the more indie street-cred you are entitled to. A correlation has developed between your Pitchfork score and the number of visible track marks on your arms. Even quality sound mastering is often dismissed as overly “corporate” or pandering to a public uninformed to the virtues of the “lo-fi” revolution.
With the garage-rock pandemic in full swing, we have plenty of examples of Iggy Pop or Kurt Cobain successors. But who fills the void left in modern music by naturally talented singers like Freddy Mercury, Steve Winwood, or ray Charles? While I appreciate originality and creativity as much as anyone, why can’t we give some credit to those blessed with glass-shattering-vocal-chords, too? Though I love Tom Waits and Bob Dylan more then you could even imagine, music is expansive, and has room for more than just “acquired taste” musicians.
Thankfully, we have Wild Beasts to fill in the gap. The band’s name derives from the early 20th century French art movement of “Les Fauves” (The Wild Beasts) lead by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. The movement emphasized colors and individual style over representational qualities of early Impressionism. Wild Beasts, the band, is defined by its lead singer, Hayden Thorpe, whose operatic falsetto stands alone in today’s scene of screamers and mumblers. Much like the art movement it’s named for, the band seems to focus less on the representational qualities of its work and more on the beauty of its formation and final product.
This is not to say the work is shallow. On the contrary, the group uses a range of instrumentation, dynamics, and sheer vocal force to inspire base emotions that cannot always be accessed by profound lyrics or innovative song construction. The music is laden with an unspoken yearning and vulnerability that allows listeners to sympathize and become part of the tracks without even paying attention to the words. As a result, listening to the album is a mix of dream-like meditation and a night at the Opera.
After receiving critical approval for their last album, Two Dancers, the Beasts have evolved to incorporate more synthesizer-oriented instrumentation. Despite the shift, they have managed to retain their signature, enrapturing sound. Established in 2006, the band is yet young, and has a lot of potential to continue to produce fantastic music in their future. Make room in your iTunes and find yourself some Wild Beasts: you won’t be sorry you did.
- Dave Greek