Wild Beasts Boy King Domino Records
Wild Beasts have always been an ideas band, and that’s what makes Boy King so confusing. The premise of this, their fifth album, is really hammered home in their press release: it’s a deconstruction of “that phallic character, the all-conquering male,” as Hayden Thorpe explains. Conversations about prescriptive gender roles and restrictive, damaging ideals of masculinity are still far too necessary – especially as we share a planet with Miles Kane – but on Boy King, Wild Beasts handle the discussion with all the tact of a low hanging spade.
Big Cat has been dubbed “the song that set the sonic brief” by the band on Twitter, and this explains plenty. Wild Beasts sound rougher, brasher and newly confident, with wheezing synths and a rolling, old-school bad-boy swagger – and set about establishing a simplistic, Lion King battle of “big cat / top of the food chain” vs. “house cat / are you okay with that?” As a sign that this’ll be a record about instincts, urges, lust and greed, this one’s a pretty phallic flag-pole.
Much of Boy King is littered with “come to bed eyes,” “virgin killers,” wanting to “watch the world burn” and, on Eat Your Heart Out Adonis, the down-right intimidating “You’ve had your fill girl, but I’m still hungry.” Savage insights into a hyper- male discourse, definitely, but in the context of crotch-grabbing rock anthems they feel more like slutty winks – too unsubtle to be labelled innuendo.
It’s frustrating that John Congleton’s typically incredible production and Wild Beasts’ confidence to strip back to those weird, grating guitar lines (check Ponytail) makes most of these tracks sound great when, lyrically, the record comes off like a cheap, dated action film. No matter how ironic or discursive Wild Beasts’ intentions, imagine a line like this at a supposedly safe gig space; “You can stuff your chastity, your ‘wait and see’, your ‘not ready.’”
We’ve got enough shit to deal with this year.