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Present Tense

Wild Beasts’ entrance in 2008 with their charismatically ostentatious debut Limbo, Panto reminded the country that there was still musical life outside the hackneyed stock of the last decade’s landfill indie scene.

Innovative and idiosyncratic, the Kendal four-piece’s intricately woven guitar parts lay comfortably between polyrhythmic percussion and vocalist Hayden Thorpe’s thespian delivery. Widely acclaimed follow-ups Two Dancers and Smother toned down the extravagance but maintained a modern and enduring quality, acknowledged by the former’s nomination for the Mercury Music Prize in 2010.

They return this month with Present Tense. The trademark quality still remains. Thorpe’s falsetto is effortlessly complemented by partner vocalist Tom Fleming’s deeper and more restrained register on ‘Nature Boy’, while unique drum patterns that sound like they’ve been taken apart and rearranged appear on ‘A Dog’s Life’ and ‘Daughters’.

After taking a year out from touring to conceive the album and replacing long-time producer Richard Formby, the result is much more electronic. Synthesizers replace guitars on many tracks, working efficiently on ‘Simple, Beautiful Truth’. But this shift in production doesn’t have the same appeal on others, particularly opener and lead single ‘Wanderlust’, which lacks the depth the band are clearly capable of achieving.

Those moments that do provoke an emotional response, such as ‘Sweet Spot’ and the melancholy ‘Pregnant Pause’, remind the listener that while some of the quality may have been compromised by the turn towards a more electronic sound, this band are still definitely worth investing time in. The resurgence of innovative British bands over the past couple of years has marked a shift away from tired, post-Libertines indie rock, and Wild Beasts look set to continue this trend.

Aidan Daly

by Now Then Sheffield