The UK-based indie rock quartet Wild Beasts is back at it again with their fifth album release, Boy King. As an album stated to be made for the “tinder generation”, it delves into the spectrum of human nature from the concept of raw, animalistic sensuality to refined explanations of love and the general range of human emotion. The varying themes are said to a result of the dueling creative differences between lead singer and guitarist Hayden Thorpe and bassist and singer Tom Fleming. As fans listen to the album they’ll note as the boy at the beginning of the album becomes the king that reigns toward the end.
As someone who is a self-proclaimed lyrical douche, I was starting to lose interest in the seemingly simplistic lyricism that the album provided. For example, the first track “Big Cat” is made up of lyrics that are almost entirely lost in the repetition of the words “Big Cat, top of the food chain” as that is honestly so drilled into one’s skull that right off-the bat it’s the only lyric I truly remember. While this makes for a clever message in the album as a whole, it doesn’t do much for me as a stand-alone track. With that said, I found myself humming the song later in the day, so it’s clearly not a song that is all bad. The instrumental aspects of the song provide a great element that essentially calls for you to bob your head along as you’re listening.
From there, the track “Celestial Creatures” serves as a pseudo intermission between the competing halves of the album introducing an interesting new element and a nice change of pace. In all, this track is a compelling spiritual experience both lyrically and through the eclectic guitar, funky sounds, and somewhat weird synth pop added in that basically makes you feel like you’re transcending through space and time. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, you’ll get it once you listen to the song.
Up until this point, Boy King has primarily been led by vocalist Hayden Thorpe, however “2BU” introduces an interesting element that changes things up: Tom Fleming has switched his role from bassist to bassist/vocalist. This marks the point in which I began to understand the record’s purpose of the juxtaposed boy and king. That said, “2BU” is certainly a unique track on this album. While it does deal with more refined lyricism, the content is still somewhat animalistic. All in all, it’s a beautifully creepy song about sexual obsession that will haunt your mind for days.
The more refined aspects of humanity are noted as the album starts to make nods to Shakespeare and Byron. The song “He The Colossus” makes outright references to “Romeo & Juliet” with lyrics such as “the wrong place at the right time/the stars were aligned”. Additionally, this song is far less aggressive instrumentally and places more focus on the soft falsetto of Thorpe’s voice. It’s as if the entire album is providing a shift on both a lyrical and instrumental level.
The album ends on the soft ballad, “Dreamliner”, that changes things up a bit as the king begins to revert back into the boy. However, it takes a different approach to the beginning of the record, which is more focused on the instrumentation than the lyricism. The first verses of “Big Cat” and “Dreamliner” summarize the major juxtapositions between the boy and the king. As Thorpe has noted “I think Boy King is an apocalyptic record. It’s about swimming in the abyss. When you think about sex, you’ve got to think about death, they’re one and the same.” At the end of the day, the album is all about the circle of life.
All in all, did Boy King succeed as a concept album about the spectrum of the human experience? Absolutely! Is it a lyrical masterpiece? I wouldn’t say the entire record is since some songs lose their purpose as stand-alone tracks, but the instrumentation is dark, funky, and really fun. Undoubtedly some of the songs off the record are earworms and that’ll either drive you insane or make you appreciate Wild Beasts on a whole new level. Either way, it’s definitely an album worth checking out.