This is a fine debut, full of surprises.
Louis Pattison 2008
Looking at Wild Beasts' credentials – well-dressed art-rock band, signed to Domino, and named in tribute to a 20th Century art movement called the Fauvists – it's tempting to whip out the chalk and write them into the post-Franz Ferdinand wave of vaguely smart guitar rock. But where few Franz copyists can hold a candle to their conceptual cleverness or way with turning outré influences into pop, a quick listen to Wild Beasts' debut album Limbo, Panto confirms that this band are no intellectual slouches.
At their most simplistic on tracks like The Devil's Crayon, they play febrile indie pop with an Orange Juice bounce, a stout croon courtesy of bassist Tom Flemming and flowery, quietly epic arrangements that recall the score of Black Beauty or some similarly windswept children's drama. Flemming is not Wild Beast's main vocalist, though: that role is played by Hayden Thorpe, who for most casual listeners will be something of a deal-maker or breaker. Somewhere between Russell Mael of Sparks, outsider pop curio Tiny Tim, and the contents of a farmyard, Thorpe's grandstanding falsetto occasionally dissolves into a cacophony of whinneys and growls. It's certainly weird, but weirdly compelling, if you submit. And Wild Beasts give the accompanying music sufficient oddity for it to shine.
Woebegotten Wanderers, the tale of a hapless lower-division football team, swings from sad elegy to slightly deranged fairground romp. Please Sir is a haunted waltz, where Thorpe's sad, Antony Hegarty-like vocal is backed by a ghostly chorus. And Bright Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants romps along on an almost disco thud, fleshed out with delirious happy wood-block percussion, hand claps and jangling skiffle guitar. This is a fine debut, full of surprises.