Back here at Latitude, then. We’ve been burned today. We’ve been drenched today. We’ve accidentally seen a bit of Beth Rowley as well. But – and this is purely my personal opinion – I’ve also just seen the best band of the festival thus far.
As any regular readers of my Wild Mercury Sound blog will have heard from me too many times to mention, I’m a very big fan of a quartet from Kendal called Wild Beasts. Without regurgitating the dozen blogs I’ve previously written about them, they’re a delirious hybrid of brittle early ‘80s UK indie and the lusher, more exotic sound of The Associates. I’m reminded constantly, listening to their awesome debut “Limbo, Panto”, of The Smiths; the strange and romantic side of The Smiths, plus the hesitant, fey dabbling with funk that opened up certain possibilities circa “Meat Is Murder”.
This is how Wild Beasts sound today: an immensely self-conscious, but immensely successful take on the English eccentric pop tradition. The singer, Hayden Thorpe, looks like a Brideshead Revisited extra who has inexplicably come to the ball in a pair of shorts. He has a gravel-tinged falsetto, your tolerance of which will depend on how much of this extraordinary band you can stand.
Marvellously, there’s another great singer in their ranks – bassist Tom Fleming – who has a soaring croon which would be praised to the heavens if he were the lead singer of any other band. He, incidentally, is wearing a vest and some kind of scarf wrapped round his head, like a half-hearted pirate. The guitarist has a waistcoat and no shirt, and plays like Johnny Marr at his most fragile and experimental. The drummer favours bounce and clip-clopping rhythms.
The whole thing is preposterous, but wonderful; an extravaganza of sexual intrigue in non-league football, with lyrics like the discreetly infamous “chips with cheese as an offering of peace”. Songs waltz, twist and generally amaze. Some of them – “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyant” – could be hits, though possibly only if they’d be released to a hitherto unacknowledged clutch of indie kids in 1935.
Oh, and they sing “For You’re All Jolly Good Fellows” to us, which is very kind, and charmingly affected. Simply thrilling, honey.