An essential album

Wild Beasts and, specifically, Hayden Thorpe, divide and conquer opinion more than most. Armed with a choirboy register and an insistence on being the troubadour storyteller, he encompasses both Wild Beasts’ animal magnetism and fatal attraction. With accusations of needless vocal acrobatics and lecherous histrionics levelled in the aftermath of the impressive ‘Two Dancers’, Thorpe and co. could have skulked off, sulked and licked their wounds. Instead, ‘Smother’ is a controlled act of defiance.

Thorpe’s vocal is as rich and tremulous as ever but there’s a level of measured control that’s dialled down the baroque where needed and gloriously intensified the beauty. ‘Plaything’ is energising in its simplicity, unashamedly giving Thorpe the spotlight in its musical scarcity while the husky, sultry ‘Albatross’ and Tom Fleming’s Garvey-esque pleading on ‘Invisible’ are two highlights plucked from an album that’s more exquisite in its execution than overtly ostentatious in its intent. Lusting and passionate, ‘Smother’ captures the sexuality that ‘Two Dancers’ managed to misconstrue. Characterised by the call and response of ‘Reach A Bit Further’, it’s decidedly more Wuthering Heights than Mills and Boon - bold in places, certainly, but not as explicit or primal as its predecessor.

Still undoubtedly driven by the horn and hormones, ‘Smother’ elegantly swims into focus with a slow-burning splendour instead of awkwardly thrusting its bollocks forward and obscenely rubbing its inner thighs. And while there are isolated moments of indulgent aggrandising (‘End Come To Soon’) ‘Smother’ does exactly what it suggests but with a poetic fragility and an exacting panache that enthrals and entices like never before. An essential album.



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