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Video: Wild Beasts, “Sylvia, A Melodrama”

January 24, 2008

Excusing the fact that there is a scene in this video where someone does one of those weird somehow simultaneously ravey and hippyish hand dances that a lot of girls we knew in middle school would walk around doing for no reason we are still into it. Maybe it's the harmonized Arthur Russell ululations, or maybe it's just the overexposed film shots that make the whole thing seem kinda quaint and nice. Check out Sam Richards' Gen F on Wild Beasts from F45 after the jump.

The romantic yelp of Wild Beasts
Story Sam Richards
Photo Venetia Dearden

Britain’s Hayden Norman Thorpe was 16 when he finally accepted that he wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer. Luckily he’d been working on a Plan B since primary school, a group called Fauve (named after the early 20th Century avant-garde art movement), later translated into English as Wild Beasts. Forming a band was a bold move in itself for a footy-playing Northern lad. Forming a band as utterly strange, as effete yet resolute as Wild Beasts, surely took some bottle.

“I don’t really listen to music at all, I keep my head in the sand,” says Thorpe, instantly batting away all the standard questions about influences. “It’s easier that way—I hate the feeling of something else getting into my mind.” On hearing the rarefied romantic racket of recent single “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyant,” you can almost believe him. There are strong notes of Orange Juice, but whereas contemporary bands like Franz Ferdinand have streamlined that Postcard sound into an efficient pop machine, Wild Beasts have added fresh layers of intricate whimsy: echoes of Kate Bush or Jacques Brel, and in Thorpe’s extraordinary, lusty falsetto, hints of a young Morrissey. Bassist Tom Fleming cites the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, and “People who have made thoughtful pop records,” but concedes, “We can’t agree on any influences. There’s something accidental about our music.”

Thorpe’s lyrics are audacious. He rhymes “toddler” with “mollycoddler,” and urges us to seize the day, to “swig the bottle, slap the face of Aristotle.” “I think it’s important to use language to be silly and entertaining, while at the same time to make an underlying point,” he reasons.

The only other band ever to come from Kendal—a small town on the edge of the Lake District famous for its Kendal Mint Cake, a bizarre sugary confection beloved of hill-walkers—are the equally eccentric British Sea Power. It must be something in the water. Or the cake. Wild Beasts have since moved lock, stock to Leeds, but there’s no doubt that isolation has helped nurture Britain’s most unique new pop prospect. “We’re determined to make music that opens people’s eyes,” says Thorpe. “If any of our ideas sound remotely close to anyone else’s, they’re out the window. We relish that challenge. We’re not lazy bastards.”

Posted: January 24, 2008
Video: Wild Beasts, “Sylvia, A Melodrama”