Much has been made of Wild Beasts‘ sexually charged new album ‘Boy King’. With its throbbing electronica, writhing basslines and debauched lyrics, their fifth full-length is a swaggering dissection of modern masculinity – more brash and downright filthy than anything the quartet have committed to tape before.
Tonight in Hove, on a still summer night, The Old Market‘s vibrant glow perfectly captures the record’s sensual and seedy atmosphere. From the moment they’re introduced, amid a violet haze of rolling fog, their stellar performance is accompanied by a manic eye-popping light show, embellishing the tantalising noise with the sort of visuals you’d imagine seeing in an eighties arcade or a red light district boudoir.
The best of their most recent offering takes precedence at the top of the set, and in ‘Get My Bang’, ‘Tough Guy’ and ‘Big Cat’ the Kendal band have the sort of slinky songs that make hips shake like ships in a storm. As this slew of fluorescent future hits play out, it’s clear their bold stylistic pivot on the LP makes it the antithesis of predecessor ‘Present Tense’, which was all about slow-burning introspection. Lyrically, it’s especially different; they’ve unleashed the animal within and it’s a glove-like fit for Hayden Thorpe’s honeyed vocals, the fidgety grooves and the vivid synths that slosh at the front row like a neon tide.
After regaling the tale of the last time they toured here (“Adele was on before us… that went well!”, jokes co-frontman Tom Fleming), they slip into more familiar territory: ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’ woos the room with its earworming coos and ethereal backdrop, the celestial rock of ‘Hooting & Howling’ rises, rises and rouses, and ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ is transformed into something quietly brooding, reduced to its bare, spine-tingling framework.
‘All The King’s Men’ – which they duly close with – is the diamond in the vault of albums past, with Fleming’s vocal mix of sonorous lows and theatrical highs still setting the heart aquiver. That said, even as its final flourish meets rapturous applause, we do not yearn for the Wild Beasts of old because ‘Boy King’ is already a pivotal step; the moment the band have found another dimension and become an altogether more thrilling live prospect. Long may their new-look reign.