Wild Beasts' 2008 debut, Limbo, Panto, sits deservingly in the canon of eccentric English musical melodramas — somewhere between Genesis, Queen and Mika. This quartet has a flair for carnivalesque chamber pop, highlighted by Hayden Thorpe's falsetto vocals. The band's music is a pastiche of bombastic genres — operatic rock, pastoral prog and glam-pop just for starters. It can be too rich and over-the-top for some listeners (Thorpe's girlish croons are a particular hurdle), and after your ears get blitzed on 10 tunes, it feels like too many turns on the merry-go-round. Two Dancers reestablishes Wild Beasts' maverick penny-opera pop with another set of 10 songs, but now they're infused with slow, delicate, narcotic ambiance. These tracks take you to a dreamy ether world of sparkling guitars, galloping percussion, bubbly keyboards and songbird warbles from both Thorpe and bassist Tom Fleming (who sings lead on four tracks). Limbo, Panto was big and dramatic; Two Dancers is understated and hypnotizing. "We Still Got the Taste Dancin' on Our Tongues" is the album's highlight, a perfect end-of-summer ballad enveloped in U2-inspired guitars, Cure-like gloom and celestial down-tempo production. All the songs are similarly subtle, downsizing the band's dramatic sound. That works, but it also robs them of their variety and peculiar charm. There's no denying Two Dancers shines like crystal, but when set beside Wild Beasts' big, bright debut, it feels like a dull sequel to Limbo, Panto's outrageous English theater. — Keith Gribbins
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