Published Oct 20, 2017For a band with such a diverse range of output over their career, Punk Drunk and Trembling seems like an uncharacteristic way to go out.
The UK art-pop quartet announced their disbandment this fall, and collected some tracks from the sessions from 2016's Boy King as a parting gift. They're decent, but they feel like bonus tracks to Boy King rather than a cohesive final statement.
Wild Beasts played fast and loose with typical notions of British indie rock throughout their career, but there were always several recurring elements: singer/guitarist Hayden Thorpe's flighty falsetto, an off-kilter rhythm section and heavy funk and R&B influences. 2009's Two Dancers earned them a Mercury Prize nomination, and they earned steady acclaim as one of the more unconventional groups to flirt with indie rock stardom.
For those looking to reminisce, Punk Drunk and Trembling is not the place to do it. For one, Boy King's electro-funk sound is stamped all over it; "Last Night All My Dreams Came True" struts along with biting synth bass and processed drums, and sounds like a natural extension of that record's sound. They've curbed some of their slightly artsier impulses seen on their stronger releases, but the sound is still unmistakeably theirs.
While groups in the late 2000s like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, the Libertines and Bloc Party seemed to embrace the idea of back-to-basics guitar rock, that was never Wild Beasts' style. They were a band that knew how to shape their own vulnerabilities into interesting shapes and forms, and showed the power of restraint and space. They sounded like indie rock introverts, and wrote songs for indie rock introverts.
It might be hard for a band whose output has varied from record to record the way theirs has to release a proper, cohesive goodbye, but odds and ends from a year-old record were never going to suffice — even if Punk Drunk & Trembling is enjoyable enough. (Domino)