Album Review: Wild Beasts – Boy King



3.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

wildbeasts-boykingWe’ve all seen them. They’re the “party guys.” Go to any city with a large population of young people, and “party dudes” will dot the landscape like fat in a finely marbled cut of meat. They can’t really help it, and nobody is really asking them to. They are an inevitability, like death and cryogenic freezing upon death. It’s almost inspiring to watch them; they’re a one-man hype machine and at a certain time in your life, they’re really fun dudes. When you’re 20 years old, the party guy is the best guy around!

And then you grow up, and partying becomes less of a focus with each passing day. You meet a significant other doing something normal like picking out radishes at Whole Foods or standing in line at the DMV. You aren’t necessarily going out to bars to meet attractive singles anymore. For me, I feel like I am finally entering my halcyon days. I am terrible at “picking up chicks,” mostly because when I am consciously doing it, I am so aware of myself doing it, and it runs so contrary to my actual nature that I inevitably break character and turn back into myself. Sooner or later, everybody has that realization: Loud, noisy, expensive places are no place to have an actual conversation or make an actual memory. If you want someone to know the “real you,” that probably isn’t going to happen during $1 Jager night.

But then there are some people who sort of stay on the “bar scene.” You know the type. They’re amped up to 11, in it to win it, going to absolutely get laid tonight. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a broom closet with an actual broom, this guy has an agenda. All he has going for him is his access to cash, unearned entitlement, and inexplicable swagger.

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Luckily, if you still can’t visualize it, Wild Beasts have made an album about them called Boy King. The title alone suggests a Divine Right status, some sort of justification that has nothing to do with content of character. Wild Beasts have made an electronic-influenced, hypnotic, rhythmic, and sharp-edged “ode” to masculinity. The group has gone on record as describing this record as a bit of a concept album, and the progression of songs would certainly seem to support it. Opener “Big Cat” is all snarky pregame, a song-length boast to get the protagonist ready for the “game” ahead. The lyric “gratified big cat got a birthright/sole survivor of his kind” further strengthens the notion of delusional white privilege. Later, “Alpha Female” longs for a woman who can match the narrator’s levels of aggression and confidence.

Perhaps inevitably, the hyper-macho imagery gradually turns into Patrick Bateman-style murderous narcissism. Standout track “2BU” fulfills the latent fantasy of the “Wild Beast.” Influence becomes ownership, which becomes possession, which becomes singularity of identity. The precise and robotic drum lines become a perfect backdrop for this kind of stony solipsism. The narrator is the only one that exists; he sees his conquests as parts of his identity.

If you’re thinking that this sort of hyperbolic “masculinity suit” rings false, you might be on to something. Though the proceeding tracks present different facets of the same carefully-constructed persona, closing song “Dreamliner” finally presents the unfiltered narrator in the comfort of his only safe space. Has the whole party thing been an act, a defense mechanism? Hard to say, but Wild Beasts have crafted a wonderfully nuanced record that explores these big questions.

 

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