“Two Dancers” – ‘Wild Beasts’
It might be the first week back to our dismal existence at school, but nonetheless, my Friday returns are dead on schedule. In the past I’ve found that there have been a few exceptional albums worth juggling for weeks on end, but for these few, I’m utterly spent. It’s hard to find an album that scrapes it through my fine-tooth-combing, and it’s a result from either one of two occurrences:
1) The albums are generally lacking in quality,
2) I’m getting scrupulously-picky…
Either way, I’m sad to say that if it weren’t for this life-saving album – although somewhat average from first glance – you’d be out of your Friday entertainment. I can’t quite wait to tear apart ‘Julian Plenti’ and his leaked, supposed ‘masterpiece’. But I’ll have to be patient and really sleep a few nights before Sunday‘s sun rolls into town and it’s back to reviewing business. “Two Dancers” is ‘Wild Beasts’ second full-length feature, and after their “critically acclaimed”‘ debut in ’08, they’re back and at it again. There’s some good stuff coming out of Europe these days, other than the Northern Americas and the somewhat isolated scene in Perth-Australia, Europe’s where it’s at. Hailing from the UK, brit-pop influences come through the album, overall – it’s quirkiness is what overrides in my opinion, much of the fault that casual listeners might bestow upon ‘Wild Beasts’:
I think that the last album I reviewed was “Silos”, and it was of an exceptionally high-calibre quality that I’m finding lacks in most of the albums at the moment. I sometimes wonder to myself, after an epic-album, what’s the point of looking for more? I’m constantly hunting for those groundbreaking songs, the songs that keep you glued to your seat, those songs that keep you coming back for more, those songs…
… Well, that I love the best. And for a tiny moment I thought that “Two Dancers” would deliver in most ways some other albums this past month haven’t. It’s just above the bar called “average”. What constitutes this mundane word, you ask? In my opinion, average is another term, like indie, that gets a little overused – because, in the end, you, the listener, have little, if any idea, why we thought it should’ve been put on the back-burner rather than have it as a full-blown review. To me, at least, something that’s just average has songs that have no spark, that melt into other albums, or too many genres, or not enough in retrospect. Some just have a beat, a guitar, some lo-fi-esque lyrics and they call themselves shoegaze. Others have the same, and then they’re alternative. It’s almost instinctual, when it comes to music, when we listen to a song and it all clicks, we know:
“… That’s the one, that’s the one I love; just listen, it’s fantastic!”
I think I’ve reviewed about fifty-albums by now, and I’ve tried to distance myself from this instant-click-scenario, because I stop looking at the album from other perspectives, like composition, ambience, lyrics and instrumental-vocals. Sometimes, just sometimes, these can pull through for an album, like “Two Dancers”, and make me enjoy it a whole lot more.
And I wouldn’t say that “Two Dancers” are breaking any musical traditions, but they sure-as-hell have an uncanny sound about them that I think’s unique, although occasionally timid. Genre-wise, I’m reluctant to shove them into indie, even though they refer to themselves as this: it’s a mongrel-genre that needs to be weeded out, in my opinion. “Two Dancers” has this laid-back experimental quality about them, unorthodox vocals and luscious-lyrics that will either hypnotise you, or conversely, repel.
It’s lyrics like:
“We got gusto, we are headstrong, we still got the taste dancing on our tongues…”
That compare to some of the strange-qualities ‘The Killers’ utilise – and although ‘The Killers’ are masters of their trade, if ‘Wild Beasts’ must be praised for something, it’s the lyrics. I mean, where do these artists begin – which hat do they pull these lyrics from? I admire well-composed lyrics that are pushing on the ordinariness of pop. Genres like brit-pop, although I’m not a huge fan, after ‘Jarvis Cocker’ and his humiliation, it certainly can be seen in the music of the ‘Wild Beasts’.
I’ll start from the top, it’s the most obvious place to begin, and it’s also the most vital. The album opens with so much potential, I was in absolute awe with the instrumentation. A mix of synth, elec./acous. harp, guitar, and a wide vocabulary of percussion. But as soon as the vocals come in at 1:30, I might lose a few of my readers. To be honest, they’re not the best, and it’s like listening to a semi-stoned version of ‘Passion Pit’, without the highs, with too many lows. But it’s got the layers that I love, and “The Fun Powder Plot” would probably have to be my utmost favourite. I know, I know, I always pick first or second songs as my favourite, but these songs are important because they make impressions on the listeners. If “Two Dancers” had it’s second, or it’s third in first-place, I probably would have shunned this album altogether. Instead, here we are in this alternate-universe where men walk with two feet, where birds fly, and fish swim…
… Damn that Doctor…
“Hooting & Howling” follows this interesting song, and again the lyrics are worth listening to. But the song, on the whole, is perhaps the worst thing I have heard in an album for a long, long, time. I mean, I’ve listened to “Two Dancers” so many times that I’m beginning to like it, but new-timers to ‘Wild Beasts’ might feel a sudden urge to purge. It has alternative influences, and lacks in synth, and it’s just a mixture between acous. percussion, elec. guitar/s and vocals. Nothing overly special…
I’m going to jump all the way to the middle where I think ‘Wild Beasts’ shine best, and that’s at the 6th and 7th track, where we have a very individual song-couplet. I’ve no way else to describe it, but the songs are called, in order of appearance, “Two Dancers” and “Two Dancers II”, and they’re a real nice, refreshing song-pair after such melodrama. The lyrics here, are my absolute favourite, and perhaps I was a little hasty before when I said the opener was the best, these two have got something going that I think would baffle a lot of readers, and other musical artists. Where some bands tend to have long-winded tracks that range from ten to fifteen minutes, ‘Wild Beasts’ have these two songs that follow each other, broken into separate tracks. In the first, we have this very cautious, yet powerful voice, this very sombre tickle of guitar, this emphatic beat, with these emotionally-laden lyrics:
“Our sun was dieing, and we could hardly eat… They dragged me by my ankles through the street… They passed me round them like a piece of meat… his hairy hands, his fallen face, his dancing cock, down by his knees, I’ve seen my children turn away from me…”
BANG – musical-chorus.
And although my externalisation of them isn’t as grand as the song itself, they bring with them a great potency even without the musical-backing. “Two Dancers II” opens with the trickle of shoegaze synth, very quiet and withdrawn, which swoops occasionally. The same tickle of guitar rages in, though more optimistically – a direct contrast to it’s brethren previous. The vocals are much more simpler, and somewhat emotionally-withdrawn. The lyrics do change here and there, but the songs’ contrast is what I like: it’s very different, and it’s very different in a good way. First, we have this very frustrated song, and then we have this very accepting one…
Disappointingly, the entire album doesn’t follow-suit like this in all respects. It finishes with an uninteresting track called “The Empty Nest”, and it toys with that same failing alternative rhythm that “Hooting & Howling” had. I can’t personally stand it, but brit-pop wise, it could be good. Because the album can be salvaged, I’ll be cruel and give it a two-outta-five – it needs work, maybe by the fifth album, ‘Wild Beasts’ will have some ear-breaking material.
… So I’ll be:
“… Gone, Gone, Gone… Going, going, going, gone…”
The Enantiomorphic God