Wild-Beasts-Present-TenseThe beasts are back and the beasts are burdened. Charged with following up the success of their previous three long players – Limbo, Panto, Two Dancers and Smoother – the Leeds based indie-electronic four-piece are back with their latest – Present Tense.

Is there a pun to be found in that title… is it ‘present, tense’? Or conversely, as one of the tracks suggests, was the ‘Past Perfect’? Certainly there’s a tension in the tight percussive punches of the opening track ‘Wanderlust’, and an at times contradictory pull between the precision of the production and the looser, ghostly and ethereal quality of Hayden Thorpe’s vocals. On cuts like ‘A Dog’s Life’, the gaps in the music offer a counterpoint to the vocals, which then build convincingly with the chords that then gather ominously, like clouds.

So, record reviewer’s shorthand: I’m thinking Talk Talk, Elbow, Antony and the Johnsons, Editors. That’s certainly the sonic ballpark we’re playing in, with a definite nod to 1990s supine, ambient electronica. I certainly feel drawn to some of the lyrical content of the album, for instance the ability of Thorpe to render poetry from the couplet ‘Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck / In your mother tongue, what’s the verb “to suck”’ on that opener, ‘Wanderlust’. His vocal style on tracks like ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Daughters’ brings to mind Ian Curtis, although at times it feels somehow forced, when compared to Macclesfield’s finest.

In the end there is something overwrought and perhaps overworked in these tracks, both in the structure of the songs and their production. These beasts pull in different directions – at times the beats are indeed wild, whilst the guitar shimmers on tracks like ‘Sweet Spot’, on others like ‘Pregnant Pause’ the vocals play off against a gorgeous piano refrain. At others, the band seem to be pulling in too many different directions without committing to any of them. Compared to previous Wild Beasts albums, the band took a full year away from touring to put the thing together and maybe it’s suffered from a surfeit of time and recording resources. Overall, perhaps, the sum of the parts don’t quite add up to what you think they might be. Atmospheric… and yes, at times utterly beautiful, but an album that sits more in the background than centre stage of my aural rigging; mono-mood, more mild than wild.

However, I wonder if all might change with the chance to see them live? Wild Beasts play Albert Hall on March 26th…

7 out of 11

Release Date 24/02/2014 (Domino Records)

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…