Long before The Suburbs debuted at #1 on both sides of the Atlantic and U2 accusations were bandied about, Canadians the Arcade Fire brought orchestral pop to the masses, unkempt, accessible and lo-fi, finally ridding it of Prog’s pompous, holier-than-thou trappings.
Even still, wind the clock back 2 years and no one is expecting Two Dancers by Wild Beasts. No one is expecting otherworldly evangelical indie to melt the Meatpacking Districts’ growing distrust of high camp. No one’s expecting a countertenor led band from Kendal, England in anything but a Mel Brooks musical, let alone as the latest capitalized Next Big Thing.
This could be a train wreck. The breathtaking castrato falsetto, the disco staccato percussion, high brow lyricism, it is moments from being King Arthur on Ice, but the confidence, the restraint, the alternating push/pull of twin vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming keep the reigns tight.
Instead of overwrought, aspirational 70 piece orchestras tonight we hear taught, refined, vignettes of a Lake District Springsteen; tales of bored skinheads starting fights for fun (“Hooting and Howling”), manic oompah lumpa vocals (“All the King’s Men”), we are left with tales of moonshine, sex and sadness, of Hounslow girls, of self-serving male Lothario’s bent on seduction, violence and cheap theatrics.
You could be forgiven for paying scant regard to the Wild Beasts first album Limbo, Panto anywhere but here. Along with new single “We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues”, it is two tracks from their previous LP that garner strongest responses. Tom’s convulsive mic presence is matched by the epileptic lighting and spirited dancing of fans. By the time the Kendal choirboys return triumphantly for an encore led by “Hooting and Howling” the crowd are enraptured.
Bookmakers may have countrymen The xx placed as 4/1 favorites for the coveted 2010 Mercury Prize, but more than a few anglophiles left the Highline Ballroom last Wednesday night readied to place bets on these 8/1 outsiders.
–by Daniel Gill (Let’s give him a big FREEwilliamsburg welcome in the comments)