1. Vigil For A Fuddy Duddy 4:43
2. The Club of Fathomless Love 3:44
3. The Devil\'s Crayon 3:38
4. Woeboegone Wanderers 4:54
5. The Old Dog 4:27
6. Please Sir 3:27
7. His Grinning Skull 4:36
8. She Purred While I Grrred 3:30
9. Brace Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants 4:02
10. Cheerio Chaps Cheerio Goodbye 4:38
Sally forth of a Saturday evening into any one of Britain’s
murderous provincial town squares; the smell of testosterone
mingles with sweating lamb’s flesh while punters duck into
dive after dive as refugees pleading for sanctuary. What do
you see? A zoo? Wild Beasts see a ballet.
In Limbo, Panto this remarkable Leeds-via-Kendal four piece
present a kind of Songs Of Innocence And Experience for the
juvenile male psyche; cataloguing its obsessions, its foibles
and its transferred desires with a satirist’s eye for the
absurd and an artist’s eye for the absurdly beautiful.
With lofty intent, then, the end justifies the frequently
bewildering means: musically-speaking, Wild Beasts peddle an
indecent but skilfully realised mix of village fete
tomfoolery, Orange Juice’s subtle melodicism and, in frontman
Hayden Thorpe’s divisive falsetto aneurisms, a diva croon to
rival the oddball likes of Russell Mael and Billy McKenzie.
With tracks like early calling-card \'Brave Bulging Buoyant
Clairvoyants\', ‘The Club Of Fathomless Love’ (“full with
fierce, fathomless love / I spit and have spats to be rough”)
Wild Beasts drink deep of the youthful elixir and dole out
drubbings to the faces of their forefathers, only to find
themselves undone in ways that have plagued mankind since time
immemorial. Or not, as the case may be: ‘Cheerio Chaps’ is a
grief-stricken music hall number examining what being shot out
of a circus cannon will do for your wounded sense of male
pride (“I gloat with gritted grin / to cheat my chin into
keeping the womanly wibbling in”).
To qualify a little: Limbo, Panto isn’t a perfect debut, but
in terms of range and depth of ambition there’s no new band in
the UK can hold a candle to Wild Beasts right now, save
perhaps These New Puritans, and theirs feels a much more
consciously-willed autonomy, if no less valid.
Which isn’t to say our subjects’ sound was merely stumbled
upon; you can bet your bottom dollar there isn’t a stroke on
this record that wasn’t agonised over at length, and the band
has clearly striven to create a lasting impression in
everything from the track listing up – ten songs in length,
two previous singles left off (including the very fine
‘Assembly’), signature hit tucked away at track nine with
muted arrangement, nary a furtive eye cast in the direction of
the indie disco. Even the title’s jarring vowel sounds trip
awkwardly off the tongue.
And if Limbo, Panto’s opening brace are an exhilarating
clatter then it’s ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ that justifies the
approach and provides the band with the masterstroke they were
no doubt aiming at. Thorpe’s obsessively alliterative ear as a
lyricist can occasionally get the better of him but here he
allows himself room to breathe, bassist Tom Flemming’s suave
tenor giving emotional heft to the former’s impassioned cries
that “we are all so much moulded dough” while revelatory
chords fire off around him. It’s a pretty stunning moment.
‘The Old Dog’ is a lovely, lilting duet that nonetheless
sneaks lines as shocking and birth-traumatic as “a human is
hauled from the womb’s wired jaw” under the radar, while
highlight ‘His Grinning Skull’ provides another moment where a
sense of transgression is allowed to pierce the band’s
rosy-cheeked vigour, an extraordinary tale of cuckoldry and
gravedigging set to a stately shimmer of synth and guitar.
A thrillingly uneven listen, all told, but what\'s important is
that, like toddlers taking their first teetering steps, Wild
Beasts are reeling in the instinctive knowledge they’ve set in
motion an idea that’s been in their genes from birth, coursing
fearless through learning limbs that seek out trauma as their
cue to pick up the pen, the guitar or the microphone. As such,
Limbo, Panto is shocking, funny, and above all irrevocable.
Expect this lot to be around for the long haul.