From the superlative praise for the raw but captivating ‘In Limbo, Panto’ to the perplexed cynicism that inevitably met follow up LP ‘Two Dancers’, Wild Beasts and, specifically, Hayden Thorpe, divide and conquer opinion more than most. Three albums in, he’s still intent on being the troubadour story teller, twisting and twirling prose to match his similarly grand operatic vocal.

And it’s easy to be drawn to this ranging, choirboy register alone but it’s also been both Wild Beasts’ greatest lure and fatal attraction. On ‘Smother’, Thorpe’s vocal is still as rich and tremulous as ever but there’s a new refinement and an almost understated quality that doesn’t overbear. ‘Plaything’ is energising in its simplicity, unashamedly giving Thorpe the spotlight in its musical scarcity but where Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg is similarly grandiose, it would be a cruel disservice to understate Thorpe’s enthralling, if histrionic presence. This time, it’s not the ostentatious one-man show it could have been and it’s all the more riveting for it.

By Reef Younis

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