Something wild 

Why does the caged bird sing? Hayden Thorpe knows. He tried to disguise his exotic plumage while growing up in the drab English rookery of Kendal.

But once he began warbling — in an otherworldly falsetto with his artsy quartet Wild Beasts, which hits The City tonight — he was simply compelled to continue.

“At first, I was trying to sing like everyone else but myself,” he says. “Then finally, it was like ‘This is how I want to sing, how I express myself, and how I get the release that I want.’ And once you get that release, you become dependent on it — it’s a vice, basically, a coping mechanism.”

Thorpe’s first instinct was to stay put in his provincial cage: “Until I realized that we could spend our lives in that town and no one would ever hear about us,” he says. “And we didn’t want to be those people who ‘could’ve done’ — we wanted to be people who had done, so we stepped outside and went to the cities.”

That only made the world a better place. Wild Beasts’ two Domino discs, “Limbo, Panto” and the recent follow-up, “Two Dancers,” are surreal sonic affairs that feel like the Smiths battling Bronski Beat in a Jacques Brel alley while Bryan Ferry keeps score. There’s nothing else quite like them in modern music.

Thorpe, 23, is a bibliophile, and he lists Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Angela Carter among his favorite authors. He named his band after the French Fauvist art movement, and he writes songs accordingly.

Tracks like “Hooting and Howling” and “All the King’s Men,” he says, “are very ugly and crude and antisocial, and a lot of the best art is. The best art shows you some shocking things, and you love it all the more for it, like a nude that shows people’s failing bodies in all their inadequacies — it’s fascinating.”

Wild Beasts tested their wings in the toughest possible venues — workingmen’s clubs around Britain where Thorpe’s ghostly trill, oddly enough, won over the blue-collar crowds. “This is where our contradictions and juxtapositions come in,” he says. “With the ability to sing people’s tragedies back to them in a more beautiful way.”

Now, Thorpe keeps his cage door open with a key aesthetic theory: Wild Beasts, he says, “have to make music for us, and the rest will follow. Because if you try and please everyone, then you end up pleasing no one — you only really have to please yourself.”

Wild Beasts

The Independent, 628 Divisadero, San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 771-1421,,

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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