Published Feb 23, 2010Despite their vague eccentricity, Wild Beasts thrive on familiarity. The hugely hyped four-piece is a study in disparate touchstones, creating an ostensibly novel yet ultimately common sound. And that's why so many people turned up to see them at the Horseshoe on a Monday in the middle of a Toronto snowstorm.
Stirring together minimal tribal drumming, scattered keys and melodramatic bass lines, the four-piece managed a sporadically fluctuating set, rising and falling as required. Ironically, though, singer Hayden Thorpe's rubber-band vocals created sameness and blended tracks together.
At turns, Thorpe's pipes conjured countless singers, including a less tough David Byrne (particularly on "The Fun Powder Plot"), as well as Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall. At his worse, his polished voice created an overtly theatrical sound, soaring and palpitating like Julia Child (albeit not as adorably) and getting low like Jason Segel's melancholic Dracula from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Taking the lead on "Two Dancers (I)" and its sequel, "Two Dancers (II)," bassist Tom Fleming fared better, his voice toeing a less dramatic line, nicely complimenting jaunty keys and rising drums to create the best tracks of the evening.
Post-Libertines UK music is still struggling to find its footing. New rave never quite took off the way it could have, the ska revival stalled at the gate and grime remains more niche than ever. The lack of a marked zeitgeist has given the isle plenty of room for disparate acts to succeed. Polished, polite and hardworking, Wild Beasts' unobtrusive tunes should see them hit bigger and bigger stages. Not everyone can be the XX; someone has to be Muse.