On their 2008 debut, Limbo, Panto, U.K. foursome Wild Beasts pushed the vocal acrobatics of singer Hayden Thorpe under the white lights. His falsetto could soothe babies or shatter glass, depending on the track. It's a striking calling card for a band barely into their 20s, and one that shrugs most comparisons — except for maybe Antony, or Baby Dee, who are themselves better dealt with on their own terms.
Wild Beasts don't have such easy latch for their second album. Thorpe sings lead on fewer tracks, handing many of the ten songs on Two Dancers to bassist and baritone Tom Fleming. Fleming's yowl doesn't have the frantic pathos of his bandmate's, but it gives this record a subtler drama. And so, no hate-it-or-love-it here: Two Dancers is easier to love, and, with fewer of Thorpe's theatrics, easier to like as well.
The real star might even be drummer Chris Talbot. His slithering rhythms compliment Wild Beasts' shimmering guitar, adding to Wild Beasts' stack of paradoxes. They traffic in lyrics about violence and sex, delivered in a lovely falsetto and, by both participating in and passing judgment on sordid human messes, they become many things: perpetrator and victim ("Two Dancers, I & II"), dominant and submissive ("All The Kings Men"), God and teenager breaking windows on the weekends ("We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues"). "Hooting & Howling" is a portrait of the gentlemen on a rowdy night out: "I was as thrilled as I was appalled, courting him in fisticuffing waltz." Versatile as their vocabulary is, Wild Beasts' favorite word is "darling." Depending on the song, it serves as a coo, a threat or an endearment. It's mostly the latter, though, once the fog sets in around the title track and onward. Even when "This Is Our Lot" kicks and flutters, Thorpe's sharp falsetto turns broad and lamenting. But "Underbelly's" album-encapsulating thesis — "How we die as deeply doe-eyed as we start" — sways from deathbed regret to late-night drunken "serious" talk. Two Dancers is both a good party and the hungover recollection the morning after.