Album reviewsMusic

Wild Beasts: Boy King – Album of the Week

1 August, 2016 — by Christopher Ratcliff0

boy king wild beasts

Wild Beasts are on the prowl. They’ve had enough of hiding their true pervy nature behind melancholic dream-pop and glacially paced baroqueness. With their fifth album Boy King, the Leeds four-piece have spread their feathers and are strutting around the manor with all the haughty swagger of a peacock. Or as an alternative animal-based simile: they’re presenting their bare red asses like a wildly horny baboon.

Boy King is stridently male, but without being macho. Its focus is on carnal desire, but it’s so wrapped up in Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto and his lasciviously peculiar lyrics that it comes off far too weird to be genuinely threatening. These elements combined with some cracking Metronomy-esque pop-disco means we suddenly have the most unlikely indie-pop album of the summer.

Everything in its first half is set to predatory mode. Using the electric guitar in its most obviously symbolic way, Boy King sways around the hall with its fully charged protrusion, blithely knocking over vases as it stalks its prey. This is most apparent in opener ‘Big Cat’, but also in the wonderful paean to women, ‘Alpha Female’ and especially in ‘Get My Bang’ as it circles around its point, teasing and caressing, without reaching a crescendo. That’s perhaps the genius of Boy King, it dwells achingly long in foreplay. The rhythms are deeply seductive, but take their sweet time getting to the actual… ahem… meat.


Often my only criticism of Wild Beasts since the sublime Two Dancers is in their under-use of bassist and co-vocalist Tom Fleming, whose vulnerable, gorgeously gravelly vocal is the perfect counterpoint to Hayden’s occasionally grating pitch. And indeed Fleming’s first proper appearance on Boy King occurs halfway through, in the richly textured ‘2BU’ – but holding him back here has a thematic point. At first the listener is caroused by the plucky, walking erection of Hayden Thorpe, and then in comes the far more threatening Fleming, exclaiming “I’m the type of man who wants to watch the world burn” and in doing so reveals the true destructive nature of masculinity and offers a warning against bravado.

This carries through in the tremendous ‘He the Colossus’ which has the feel of an elder god ruminating on the destruction caused in the wake of his rampaging libido, “everything just dies in these hands.” ‘Ponytail’ sounds playful in its Passion Pit electro-poppiness, but there is a disturbing underbelly of darkness if you stumble into its trap. ‘Eat Your Heart Out Adonis’ pushes the bright red thematic button with its “carnivores just want the dark meat, won’t get off until they taste it.”

On the surface, Boy King may be poppy, uplifting and certainly the catchiest thing they’ve ever made, but like most things in nature, brightness has an ulterior motive; it’s meant to attract your attention before drawing you into a dangerous game of sex and death. Wild Beasts are done playing with their food. They’re ready to devour and indulge in the flesh of their victims. 4/5

Check out all the latest music releases in our new album reviews section, including the Descendents’ welcome return Hypercaffium Spazzinate.

Wild Beasts - Boy King

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