Published 06/12/2011 | 06:00
The Academy, Dublin
WILD Beasts' esoteric art-funk feels custom-crafted for cultish devotion and after-the-fact discovery, so it's a surprise it has attracted such an enthusiastic mainstream following. The extent to which the band has connected with the masses is apparent at their live shows, which can resemble Oasis concerts for the tweeting classes. There is spontaneous, if very polite, pogoing, lots of men in woolly hats bobbing their heads, even during the eerily anthemic 'All The King's Men'.
This is an unexpected, rather encouraging reception for a band that paddles in arcane waters. Singer Hayden Thorpes's choir-boy warble suggests Antony and the Johnsons trapped inside the body of a sexually confused teenager; the music's elongated tempos, all wooziness and uncanny contortions, can sound like LCD Soundsystem heard through the wall of a fish tank. It's odd and avant-garde and, yet, speaks to the listener at a very unpretentious and human level.
Perhaps that's because Wild Beasts write so compellingly about the everyday. On 2010's Mercury-nominated Two Dancers, the Cumbria four-piece pick apart delicate subjects like masculine identity, the tensions between our nobler and baser selves and the horizon-narrowing contradictions of British lad culture. Meanwhile, last summer's Smother veered in a different direction altogether, emphasising musical complexity over heart-on-sleeve emoting -- the single 'Albatross' is an achingly lovely piece of soft rock that manages to be both immediately catchy and deeply mysterious, a pop song written in a language you don't quite understand.
They seem a personable bunch, too. In nondescript leather jacket and boring shoes, Thorpe is the antithesis of the scenesters that populate the band's new home of Shoreditch in London; with his sensible hat and stubble, co-vocalist Tom Fleming looks like he should be making tea on a building site rather than conjuring the restless ghosts of krautrock, DFA electronica and 80s pop oddballs David Sylvian and Talk Talk. Granted, as the set moves towards the final third, tunes begin to coagulate into one gummy mess of 20- something angst, and there is occasionally a tendency to over egg Thorpe's falsetto as guitars politely tinkle and whirr in the background. At these moments, Wild Beasts feel suspiciously like Spandau Ballet for hipsters and you worry they are starting to rely on a formula. Still, these are rare lapses -- for the most part, they conjure racket that is gorgeous, transcendent and dazzlingly weird.