Last month, UK art rock band Wild Beasts announced they were splitting. Personally, as a huge fan of their work, it was depressing news. Though their last album, 2016’s Boy King, was by far their weakest (it felt like the band were trying too hard to gain more mainstream appeal), it was by no means awful. I hoped the band would bounce back from its lukewarm reaction, but instead they’re breaking up, leaving behind one final release – an EP made up of leftover songs from the Boy King recording sessions.
Given that this is Punk Drunk & Trembling’s background, it’s not surprising that the EP feels thrown together. Only one song on it is actually new – the title one – with the other two having been released previously as bonus tracks on Boy King’s deluxe edition. On one hand, it’s a shame that such a consistently fantastic band is ending things with a release that honestly feels very inessential… But then again, on the other hand, I suppose it’s better than nothing.
‘Punk Drunk & Trembling’ is the EP’s main highlight. Though it’s a leftover Boy King track, it’s surprisingly better than at least half of what made it onto the album. (Though I can see realistically that there’s nowhere in the tracklist that it would’ve fit in naturally.) The song does a great job of combining the swaggering masculinity of the band’s last album with the more vulnerable and emotional sound found on their earlier releases. Hayden Thorpe’s vocals on the track have a real sadness to them, as do the synths that linger in the background. The lyrics are also incredibly melancholy – ‘Why dry the tongue, what’s done is done’ – which helps the song feel like a fitting parting note for the band.
The other two songs, while not bad, definitely do feel like leftovers. Like ‘Punk Drunk & Trembling’, a big part of why they didn’t make it onto Boy King is because they don’t fit the album’s mood – yet, unlike it, they also don’t really surpass any of the songs that did make it on. ‘Maze’ is the better of the two; it’s the most stripped-back song the band have put out in years, placing all emphasis on Tom Fleming’s vocals. That’s not entirely a bad thing, because Fleming’s vocals are fantastic as always – it’s just that there’s nothing particularly interesting going on here. You can find similarly low-key Fleming-led songs on Smother or Present Tense that are more powerful lyrically and more interesting instrumentally.
‘Last Night All My Dreams Came True’ fares worse though. Sandwiched between two much sadder tracks, it doesn’t fit the EP’s overall mood well or the circumstances surrounding its release. Driven by a squelchy drum beat, the song sort of meanders along. The only thing I can really say in its favour is the vocal interplay between Fleming and Thorpe, but even that isn’t particularly great. Both of them sound bored on the track and it’s not difficult to see why.
At only ten minutes long, there isn’t a lot to take away from Punk Drunk & Trembling. The title track hints at what direction the band might’ve taken next, but unfortunately we’ll never know for sure. Even if this isn’t the send-off that a band as good as Wild Beasts deserves, it is – as I said before – better than nothing.