Dismantling their one-time aloof, nice guy image with one fell swoop, experimental indie group Wild Beasts have once again proved they are one of the most innovative and adventurous acts currently operating in the music business. Produced by Grammy award-winning John Congleton in Dallas, Texas, Boy King, the band’s sexually-charged, apocalyptic cousin to 2014’s more metaphysical Present Tense may sound a little obscure for some, but it’s nonetheless a triumphant break in style and tradition from the Kendall group.
Intended to explore the somewhat poetic themes of sex and death, the album portrays the concept of the all-conquering, phallic male, giving frontman Hayden Thorpe the chance to, as he put it, “Let his inner Byron out”. This undercurrent of masculinity and sexual conquest is ever-present throughout the album with tracks like ‘Tom Cat’, ‘Tough Guy’, and ‘He the Colossus’ depicting male domination and predatory sexuality, while the likes of ‘Ponytail’, ‘Get My Bang’, and the Blade Runner-esque ‘Eat Your Heart out Adonis’ sound like some kind of wild orgy set in a post-apocalyptic future.
While the silky-sharp symbiosis between Thorpe and Tom Fleming, so crucial to Wild Beasts’ signature sound, is dutifully maintained along with some of the more dreamlike, waltzy elements of their music – most notable on slower tracks like ‘Celestial Creatures’ and the closing ‘Dreamliner’ – generally speaking the record is quite a revolutionary break from the norm. The Gothic synth that so dominated Present Tense has been phased out in place of a more futuristic sound based on industrial guitar riffs and heavy beats, while lyrically the album is far more direct, and at times abrupt, than its more poetically figurative forbearers.
It may not be as iconic as its direct predecessor, or as stylistically engaging as some of their earlier albums, but Boy King is a landmark album in its own right from a band that are constantly evolving.