Somewhere between 2008’s Limbo, Panto and 2009’s Two Dancers, I was introduced to Wild Beasts and, as they say in the movies, it was love at first sight. I was immediately grabbed by the off-kilter complexity of the music, the astonishing falsetto of Hayden Thorpe’s vocals, the earthy deep richness of Tom Fleming’s.
That was 10 years ago. I’ve grown as a person since then, and Wild Beasts have grown as musicians. Each studio album, five in total, was the next step in the band’s development. Album after album, they put out great, memorable, even iconic work.
After several years of missed opportunities, I finally saw Wild Beasts live, at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge during their Boy King tour in late 2016. Before beginning “2BU” from that album, Fleming asked the crowd if we could keep our cellphones away, all just share a moment together — I was the asshole that immediately forgot and had to be scolded in between lines (sorry, Tom! I got excited.).
And now it looks to be all over.
Wild Beasts Call it a Day
This past September, in a touching and heartfelt statement, they announced that they would move forward from Wild Beasts. When I heard the news, I was… I was crushed. Their music has long been a source of joy and peace and solace for me, and its hard to imagine that there won’t be more of it to explore in a year or two.
“I think there’s a life cycle with any band,” said Thorpe of the mutual decision. “It reaches a point where the snake begins to eat its tail. Our last album, Boy King, felt just like our first record in many ways — in its fuck you spirit, in its sense of self-destruction.”
They’re not leaving in a puff of smoke, though. There are parting gifts. For those lucky enough to live in the British Isles, there are three farewell shows — February 15 at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, the 16th at the O2 Apollo Manchester, Manchester, UK, and the 17th at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.
For the rest of us, there is Last Night All My Dreams Came True, out this Friday.
Truly a Retrospective, ‘Last Night All My Dreams Came True’ is an Appropriate Send Off
Last Night All My Dreams Came True is a career-spanning collection of songs, not entirely dissimilar from their setlist during the Boy King tour, recorded in live sessions at London’s legendary RAK Studios last summer. I may be projecting (I feel physically sad writing this), but the songs seem to have been performed with an underlying sadness, the band knowing this would be their last output together, but also a sense of contentment and triumph and celebration.
“It’s us as tight and slick as we ever have been,” Fleming said. “And it’s also us giving the fewest fucks we’ve ever given. There’s a sense of celebration and destructiveness combined… that sense of limited time before you shuffle off is very much a motivator.”
The Wild Beasts who perform on Last Night is a band well honed over a decade of relentless touring. The four of them are so in synch that, at a casual listen, you’d be hard pressed to know this was a live, unmixed recording.
Listen closely, though, and you’ll notice the beautiful little idiosyncrasies that make live performances so special. You can practically hear Thorpe’s smirk while he croons “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck,” the refrain of Present Tense’s “Wanderlust,” and Fleming’s inability to resist chiming in. The improvised “ohs” and hoots and howls on “Hooting and Howling.” The deep sorrow of “The Devil’s Palace,” a portmanteau of “The Devil’s Crayon” and “Palace.” The revelry and sensuality of “Get My Bang,” Boy King’s lead single.
Not only is this record a snapshot of one of their final live performances, it’s a time capsule of Wild Beast’s career and studio output. More than that, Last Night All My Dreams Came True is their time capsule, collecting four guys — Thorpe, Fleming, Ben Little, and Chris Talbot — and their lives, their experiences, their influences, their urges, their regrets, their hopes. It’s the story of what happened when their dreams came true.
I don’t know what’s next for these four musicians after Wild Beasts. I don’t think they know yet, either. But whatever it is, I’ll be happy for it. And in the meantime…