Everyone's been swooning over that Last Shadow Puppets album recently, and with good reason. Alex Turner's knavish tales go well with a dollop of orchestral elan, plus he and Miles look dashing in turtlenecks. However, the boys would be the first to admit that their record's a fairly considered Scott Walker/ Jimmy Webb homage, albeit a handsome and effective one. Whereas the amazing debut album from the Lake District's Wild Beasts, which dropped into my lap yesterday, bars no holds whatsoever in its mad, quixotic pursuit of a bawdy English kind of melodrama, making the Last Shadow Puppets seem a bit tame and calculating by comparison.
"Sylvia, A Melodrama" video
I first frothed about these extraordinary Wild Beasts back in F43, having been seduced by their debut single 'Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants', a rollicking Orange Juice-style romp which justified its audacious title with some equally tasty wordplay ("Swig the bottle, bottle/ Slap the face of Aristotle" constituting a nifty life philosophy). That song makes it onto the Domino release 'Limbo, Panto', but their subsequent two singles don't, which is a measure of their confidence, or perhaps just their perversity.
It's rare to find a new young British band these days so thoroughly unarsed about being liked. Even the ones who aren't depressingly derivative seem desperate to get their mugs in the tabloids or recruit little groups of followers (please be my MySpace buddy!) in order to justify themselves, threatening to instantly dispel any magic their music may have created. Wild Beasts exist in their own little world. When I spoke to singer Hayden Norman Thorpe last year, he was genuinely bewildered by questions about the Leeds music scene (the band relocated there from Kendal a few years back) or what else he was listening to at the moment, protesting that he was merely focused on creating something unusual himself.
Plenty of people are going to be turned off Wild Beasts by Hayden's outrageous voice, which is constantly getting compared to Billy Mackenzie of The Associates. However, his lusty shrieks are integral to the music's sense of untamed passion and possibility – without which Wild Beasts' campily nostalgic settings could become irritating, like nod-and-wink merchants The Divine Comedy.
At the moment, my favourite song on 'Limbo, Panto' is 'Woebegone Wanderers', an almost operatic, tempo-shifting, ripping yarn about, I think, scandal behind the scenes of a non-league football team: "I swear on my own cock and balls… there'll be reason for treason this season, the players are slack, the boss has been sacked, just win the big match – that's all I can ask." It's an incredible song which concludes with someone getting slapped on the arse, Hayden crooning "Please be wary, the pit of a man's heart is dark and scary" and an unexpected, African-sounding coda. Clearly, with Wild Beasts anything is possible.