Make no mistake, ‘The Boy King’ is not an easy listen. Throughout it is laced with tension, because once again the band have decided to push themselves to see what they are capable of. Part of the creative process was a kind of ‘song off’ between the two main forces in the band, vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming. Thorpe wanted a soulful approach but Fleming was intent on destroying that with serrated guitar sounds – and the result is an album that drops in elements of Nine Inch Nails to what would otherwise have been a fluid album of R&B leaning electronic pop. As it happens, though, the music is rough and ready, and shot through with sexual tension the whole way through. The lyrics are even more so. Some of them are downright sinister in fact – such as 2BU, where Fleming sings of how “I want your face, I want your skin”, or on 3, where Thorpe sings “Alpha female, I’ll be right behind you’. The dark undertow to the band’s sound is particularly strong on the unsettling ‘Tough Guy’, and in the fantastic grubby bass dragged into action towards the end of ‘The Colossus’. Even ‘Dreamliner’, which promises to be a serene closing track, leaves a lasting chill. It is the end to an album where Wild Beasts are still out there in front of the competition, straining every sinew to make music that requires the whole of their being. ‘The Boy King’ is a far from settling listen, but that’s the point – and if you keep with it the rewards flow unhindered.
5 out of 5
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood