Monday, 17 February 2014

Wild Beasts – 'Sweet Spot'

As if to put paid to any speculation that they've abandoned guitars completely on fourth album Present Tense, Wild Beasts' new track 'Sweet Spot' deploys both guitars and synths in a sensuous, slowburning way, gently ramping up anticipation of the album's release at the end of this week.

What makes Wild Beasts so good is all over this song: the interleaving of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming's distinctive yet beautifully complementary voices; arpeggiated guitar parts that simultaneously suspend the song in place and twirl it elegantly; the nagging sense that the song will serve as a small yet essential part of the bigger picture to come. In itself, it doesn't really go anywhere radical, but the subtle melodic pirouettes behind Fleming's voice and the cascading vocal harmonies are rather elegant and lovely.

What I am cynical about, however, is the deployment of synth. It's nothing too egregious, but it feels a bit anticlimactic given how recent interviews with the band have highlighted their eager adoption of synths on the new album. The tone of the synth in this track feels a bit flat, and features too prominently in the mix – and the song stops abruptly after the synth hints at a new direction towards the song's conclusion. Sadly, Wild Beasts appear to be the latest in a long line of guitar bands waxing rhapsodic about the inspirational power of the synthesizer and how it enlivened their compositional process. The question of whether it works for them will be answered once Present Tense is released. But is this synth rite of passage something that every band has to go through, even a band as singular and seemingly abundant in inspiration as Wild Beasts?

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