Sporting a sleek new logo and a slick new sound, Kendal's biggest ever export (bar the mint cake) are back with their increasingly commercially-aimed sound that might give the Hot Chip's and the Metronomy's a run for their money. Where they once sang "The messed bottom bunked bed of the dead, this fouled fallen nest, this dried up drooping breast, I hold my hips at this comic apocalypse, the world's a whoopee wibbling wantlingly on my crooked seat", they now sing "That's how I get my bang".
Yup, things change....and not for the better, sadly.
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The latest edition of Uncut magazine favourably reviews this latest effort from the wilting former Kendal four piece but you'll notice if you flip to the back cover there sits proudly a full page colour advert for the record. Coincidence? Possibly not especially when the review plays to the standard print press policy of simply talking about the lyrics with any mention of the music as an afterthought.
I wrote a lengthy piece on their previous dreadful effort ‘Present Tense’ here so will not repeat my ramblings yet again save to say that ‘Boy King’ does the seemingly impossible and manages to be an even worse album. The days of the spangling, sparkling literate ’Smother’ have long gone and we are left with a shell of a band who are content to chase the dollar rather than any kind of musical beauty. 'Boy King’ is a shiny, scrubbed album of funky Hot Chip type slinky electronic pop. The songs though are totally benign pieces of funk with half hooks slathered in so much studio gunk that it’s difficult to remember what it was about them that I once enjoyed. The first four songs are so bad that I’m not even going to flatter them with a comment however ‘Celestial Creatures’ marries some squelchy synths to a few of the glassy guitar figures they once employed on ’Two Dancers’ and ’Smother’ but for it’s overlong ending with a drifting go-nowhere but pleasant synth. This once most wordy of bands now have a song called ‘2BU’ which is pretty much the first time Tom Fleming’s voice is used in the record, it’s not the worst thing here but like everything else is ruined by some what-were-they-thinking synth. The only other moment I half enjoyed is the closer 'Dreamliner' which at least shows some restraint and a hint at the twinkling atmospheres they were once so good at.
The great bands of the past never made plastic records like this. The Smiths, Orange Juice for example....and those that did (Scritti Politti, Aztec Camera Simple Minds) later seemed to regret it and if they are still touring then their setlist will be heavy on the earlier work. I don’t mind big shiny pop but it must come in tow with tunes and excitement and thrills. The music Wild Beasts now make is just pitiful. It’s so disappointing, even this office's last remaining supporter has now given up on them. I just hope that they one day come to their senses and thrill again with what they are really capable of.
For now I'm just going to sit back and watch the great reviews from other less discerning websites and print publications roll in and then return to the scene in ten years time to see how things have been settled.
6/10 Squid Customer review, 5th August 2016
You'll have to excuse Clinton. Rumour has it he hasn't actually ejaculated in eight months, so whenever anything turns up that's a little bit cum-soaked, he gets ornery. He also has this wild conspiracy theory about how Uncut and Domino conspired to bring down the World Trade Centre. But that's a story for another day.
Look, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this record. Thematically, it picks up where songs like "Lion's Share" and "Plaything" left off. Except this time the Beasts are less arch about the raunch at the centre of the songs. Hayden and company have tried to be more direct with this, so you get very literal depictions of male sexuality coupled with (no pun intended) synths that are set to "greasy throb." (That's not plastic you're hearing, Clinton. It's PVC.) The songs are mostly grooves and vamps, so there isn't much room for "glittering guitars" and "inventive tom work." But they do occasionally take flight. "He The Colossus" consistently provokes kitchen dancing, and I love the outro to "Celestial Creatures" that closes side one. (But then I love Autechre's extended outros, too, so take that with a grain of salt, I guess?) Pacing -- as always with this band -- is an issue. One more slow burner on side one would have been welcome.
It's always risky when cerebral bands try to jettison the more considered parts of their music because they think that's what's holding them back. (Cf. Grinderman, which this site consistently gave scores of 8/10, btw.) This isn't Wild Beasts at their peak, but it's a damn sight more gripping than Present Tense. If you don't believe me, go check the "less discerning websites and print publications." "Boy King" is worth a listen.
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