Boy King's latest album looks beneath the macho facade

There are no two ways about it - the Mercury Prize-nominated indie rockers cannot help but think about sex.

"Big cat on top/Better show me what you've got," Hayden Thorpe squeals over hissing riffs and electronic synths, in the opening track, Big Cat. It is corporate greed as an aphrodisiac, a come-hither or a challenge - who knows.

For their past four albums, they would tease it, pussyfoot around it, play hard to get, but now, it is time to come out and get it.

In their latest outing, Boy King, it is braggadocio amped up for maximum gratification and sociological dissection.

They have created the titular character, an alter ego who is greased up, gym-buffed and filled with protein shake.



    Wild Beasts


    4/5 stars

Recording in Dallas, Texas, they have recruited John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In The Sky), who lures, well, the big cat out of these Englishmen.

In a recent interview, Thorpe whined, half in jest: "We've become the band we objected to being. We set up the band to be this kind of fey, effeminate art-band that was reacting to hyper-masculine aggressive rock gestures and, in a way, we've kind of become it."

He was, of course, being hard on himself. Guitars crunch and drums pound, but he still alternates between manly croon and softly caressing coo.

"Your ponytail swinging out… I want you to love me," he purrs in Ponytail, a disco-relic ballad with skittering beats and a backing vocal made to sound like silly Chipmunks.

Wild Beasts relish in insecurities and vulnerabilities beneath the macho exterior.

The first single, Get My Bang, for instance, is a perfect sublimation of carnal desire, but tagged with an uneasy afterthought that he could never really be completely released.

"Why would you hold it back from me? If not, then when? If not you, then who? If not here, then when?" he asks as shards of guitar cut through him. Partner-in-crime Tom Fleming joins him, all broody baritone, playing Brad Pitt to Thorpe's Edward Norton in Fight Club.

"You can have me anytime," Thorpe struts in He The Colossus, with guitars tossing around like priapic toys. "I like it messy/Don't you make it neat," he commands in Eat Your Heart Adonis, issuing instruction after carnal instruction.

Synths yawn like menacing creatures in the background, as the singer whispers close to your ear.

Boy King thus exists at the precipice of heightened fantasy before death sets in, an apocalyptic send-off as the morning looms.

Appropriately, the album ends with the strikingly minimalist Dreamliner, a hallucinatory vessel that moves glacially in the afterglow.

"So be kind to me now," Thorpe pleads over lonesome ivory pinks, spent, neon lights behind him, soon to be awakened.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Looking beneath the macho facade'. Print Edition | Subscribe