posted on September 19, 2008 19:00
A review of the album 'Limbo, Panto' by Wild Beasts
Review Snapshot: 'Limbo, Panto', the debut album from British band, Wild Beasts, a theatrically over the top record about sex, sin and struggling soccer teams. A genuinely strong and enjoyable debut.
The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10
At first listen, you would be forgiven for thinking that Wild Beasts were a satirical cover band of The Smiths spliced with 18th century opera. Lead singer Hayden Thorpe has a camper singing style than Morrissey. Just think about that for a moment. Camper then flower flinging, blouse wearing, falsetto singing Morrissey. At times Thorpe’s voice is comically operatic and on other occasions it is a guttural growl, wandering where it pleases, without consideration for the taut bass lines and energetic guitar strumming, hopelessly trying to keep up. There is a raw charm to his voice, but one that will not be to everyone’s liking. It is so incomparable and alien it will have the effect of polarising opinion on the band. You’ll love it or hate it, but definitely won’t be indifferent.
There is certainly a novelty aspect to this offering from Wild Beasts, in the way the record is presented, sung and indeed the topics sung about. But there is a whole lot more to it besides. It is an unobtrusive album, that doesn’t aim to blow the listener away, but instead coaxes you in with every listen you afford it. And after awhile the rewards come in the form of initially misunderstood lyrics, where you had mistaken wit for pretentiousness.
What is remarkable about Wild Beasts is their ability to transform the mundane into the epic, or at least bravely attempt to do so. The most notable example of this coveted skill comes four tracks in with 'Woebegone Wanderers' a song about the plight of a non-league football team. It sees Thorpe at his most flamboyant and in spite of this, or maybe as a result of it, the song actually works. Proof again that fantastically unnecessary sentimental lyrics alongside great pop rock music can work.
There is a lot to admire about this unusual album. It offers ambiguous lyrics and disjointed musical pieces yet has the potential to appeal to a wide audience. 'The Devil’s Crayon' is the track that showcases Wild Beasts ability to take on a pop song and master it with clever lyrics and catchy guitar work. It’s loud and epic with contrasting singing styles from Thorpe.
At times, Wild Beasts' debut sounds like it was produced with the view to soundtracking a Tim Burton animation. It is eerie and theatrical, particularly 'Please Sir', and 'His Grinning Skull'. The latter is the probable highlight of the album as it saunters along at its own pace with delicate guitar strumming.
The bawdy side of Wild Beasts rears its head on a number of occasions, the best xample being 'She purred, while I grrred'. You can really get away with unmannerly sexual talk if you put it cleverly. It sees Wild Beasts try and nail the mystery of life with the line:
“I die every day, to live every night, under the industry of her want for me in our fusty foundry”.
This is a cracking album from a young group doing their own thing in a British scene clustered with indistinguishable bands. It may take a while to grow on you, but what they do they do with style.
A genuinely strong and enjoyable debut.