Critically acclaimed British indie-rock band Wild Beasts have finally produced a follow-up to their widely praised 2009 album, Two Dancers. The latest LP, titled Smother, sees the Mercury Prize nominated band give us a much more understated album, then previous releases. Smother is based around simple but deeply enthralling instrumentation, while singers Hayden Thorpe and now more frequently, bassist Tom Fleming continue to engross us with their rich, alluring voices.
Smother kicks off with a deep synthesised pulse, before a simple piano progression begins. Smother maintains Wild Beasts sexually connotative lyrics from Two Dancers, with Thorpe’s seducing voice and lyrics singing, “I take you in my mouth like the lion takes his game”. Similar erotic lyrics are a mainstay throughout the album and the interplay between Thorpe and Fleming is the driving force behind keeping the album fresh and absorbing.
The suggestive lyrics of the first track continue into the next with ‘Bed of Nails’. A restrained rolling beat accompanies the yearning lyrics of Thorpe who is echoed by Fleming. “I would lie anywhere with you/Any old bed of nails will do”. 'Bed of Nails' really shows the strengths of Thorpe's and Fleming's voices, and really engrosses the listener.
‘Loop the loop’ is another minimalist track with a gentle guitar riff and tender synths soar in the background. Hayden Thorpe contemplates “Oh, don't you think that people are the strangest things/Desire, oh desire is all that the heart requires/Is what it can't recognise” while Fleming ‘Oos and Ahhs’ softly. Thorpe continues “Forget now how many must die... as many as I remember I must forget/How many do I regret now...”. While the lyrics throughout the album are very serious, they are often presented in a fun and playful way. It creates a strange tone throughout many of the songs, but really kept me listening.
The first single from this album, ‘Albatross’, was initially a surprise as I found it hard to place within the tone of the rest of the album. The placid guitar riffs and the piano sequences were not something that would be immediately attributed to the ‘Wild Beasts’ of Two Dancers but having heard it with the rest of the album now, it fits in rather neatly. ‘Albatross’ signifies how much ‘Wild Beasts’ has grown since their last album. Where previously, the songs burst into life right from the beginning, ‘Albatross’ slowly builds, luring the listener in before crescendoing with its striking chorus. Behind the immediate beauty of the song a deep sadness resides – “I flinch and you fall through the cracks/To the sea and all it bears/The secrets that I should've shared”.
‘Reach A Bit Further’ lifts the mood of the album once more with an upbeat love song about the hardships of relationships and being able to rise above them. This is probably the best example of the repartee between Thorpe and Fleming. “I was angry and brash as a bull/You were devastatingly beautiful/I was crude I was nude I was rude... I was not in the mood” stresses Hayden while Fleming declares “Yes I will do all the things that you ask of me/I said yes I will, darling, I have no fear”. Smother closes with the ‘End Comes Too Soon’, a seven and a half minute unrestrained song, with the closing section wonderfully rounding off the album.
Admittedly, Two Dancers took a vast amount of listens for me to fully appreciate – to the point where I almost gave up on it. I had no such qualms with Smother, instead finding that I connected with it immediately. Between the overtly sexual lyrics of Hayden Thorpe with the help of Tom Fleming and the delicate guitars and synthesised lines the entire album is thoroughly enjoyable. It would be shocking if this doesn’t result in a Mercury Prize victory. Keep an eye out for this at the top of many lists come the end of 2011.