‘Wild’ is pretty low on the list of words to associate with Wild Beasts’ third LP, Smother, but that doesn’t mean the UK quartet have lost their magic. Toning down the sexual eccentricity of 2009’s Two Dancers, this album presents a mellow collection of songs by a foursome who continues to impress with their boundless talents and creativity.
Smother begins with Hayden Thorpe’s uncanny trembling falsetto knocking you out on opening track “Lion’s Share”. The dazzling cabaret-esque performance recalls Two Dancers‘ “Hooting & Hollering”, but, as the song progresses, Chris Talbot’s drumming and Tom Fleming’s bass grooves take the spotlight – setting the stage for the rest of the album. Whereas Two Dancers could easily spark spastic dancing, Smother’s 10 tracks are spent building lush, textured soundscapes. Each song centers around the construction of a hypnotic groove. Thorpe’s vocals even partake occasionally, notably on stand-out track “Loop the Loop”, where Thorpe’s continues to repeat the line: “Forget now, how many must die”. It’s a subdued aesthetic for a band so well-versed in the outrageous, but they make it work admirably well.
From the anchor of bass and percussion, Wild Beasts venture in various sonic directions throughout the album, ranging from piano ballads (“Invisible”) to cuts of pulsating African percussion (“Plaything”). Every track is a case study in masterful composition, as each disparate musical element is seamlessly integrated into its respective song. Closer “End Come Too Soon” exemplifies this, as it changes from looped feedback to wailing vocals, all the while maintaining its continuity.
Even with all of the different ideas explored on Smother, Two Dancers isn’t left completely behind. Lines such as “You know the second I saw you, I was rendered the very voyeur” on “Plaything” and “I take it in my mouth, like a lion takes his game” on “Lion’s Share” pay homage to the outward eroticism of “We’ve Still Got the Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues”. The ultimate beauty of Smother, though, comes from its subtlety as Wild Beasts continue to transcend conventional pop music with yet another great addition to their catalog.