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Who says skinny white guys with guitars can't write about sex? Knocking the old cliches about uptight English guitar bands firmly on the naggin, Hot Press Album of the Year winners Wild Beasts return with a record chronicling in excruciating detail the squalid underbelly of sudden success. Over coffee and buns, they discuss new LP Smother, the pressure a Mercury nomination brings and the dark side of the English Lake District.
Ed Power, 13 May 2011
Encircled by guffawing businessmen in iffy pine-stripes and dotty American tourists, Tom Fleming is holding forth on the hot-button topic of intergalactic coition.
“On the taxi in, we were listening to some pop song with a weird alien sex metaphor. ‘I’m gonna disrobe you, I’m gonna probe you...’” says the Wild Beasts man. “Like, what the fuck?! I joked that this is exactly what we were setting ourselves up against. But it’s true – it’s so ridiculous that people are supposed to relate to that sort of thing. And then they wince at our lyrics. I find that mind-bending.”
It’s approaching midday at Dublin’s Brooks Hotel and the lunch-hour crowd has descended early. Sitting incongruously in the corner are Fleming and Wild Beats vocalist Hayden Thorpe. They are here to discuss their much-anticipated third LP Smother. The record is a follow-up to 2008’s Two Dancers, a Mercury nominee and – cue drum-roll! – recipient of the Hot Press Album of the Year accolade (an honour with which the modest duo are still visibly chuffed). Recorded straight after they wrapped 18 months of killer touring, Smother is an attempt to filter the rollercoaster ride that their life has become. Listening to the sometimes powerfully raw and explicit lyrics, there is a sense of the quintet trying to negotiate the groupie-shagging clichés that come with being in a successful band with their sense of chivalry (mostly) intact.
“A lot of music is really safe,” rues Thorpe, who, with beanie hat and backwoods beard, could be on his way to audition for a Fleet Foxes tribute act. “It does what it’s told. It stays safe. There’s a huge misconception that, in order to make music that appeals to the masses, you have to avoid being controversial. That’s a right-wing viewpoint. The reason people place so much importance in music is that it speaks to them at an everyday level. A song like [Smother stand-out] ‘Plaything’ is about the grittiness and selfishness of sexuality and relationships. I think it’s really important to discuss these things and for people to think, ‘Thank fuck I’m not the only one who felt that way.’”