While it may not be the last will and testament fans might have hoped for, Wild Beasts’s supposed swan song, Last Night All My Dreams Came True, stands as a fitting capstone to the band’s canon. Rather than write a new album’s worth of material, Wild Beasts recorded new studio performances of their best-loved songs, played with more muscle and immediacy than before.
As such, the album serves as a satisfying roundup of their greatest hits while also shifting the focus from the group’s lush arrangements and skilled studio craft to their chemistry as a live band. The art-funk song “Big Cat,” which first appeared on 2016’s Boy King, was originally coy and fleet-footed, buoyed by synths and a bit of Queen-style theatricality. Though the new arrangement here isn’t much different, it prowls and pounces, with more thunderous drums, more ominous harmony vocals, and a guitar solo that’s more disruptive to the song’s sleek, mannered exterior.
Last Night All My Dreams Came True also highlights Wild Beasts’s resourcefulness. The live performance model doesn’t afford them the overdubs and studio effects that made their past albums sound so textured and baroque, yet they’re still able to produce a robust, layered sound. “This Is Our Lot” opens with clattering drums and gnarled electric guitar, but it builds into a big wash of atmospheric synths and ambient, U2-style guitar effects. Never before has this band veered so close to the melodic thrum of shoegaze.
But not everything here is about dramatic gestures or outsized performances. Stitched together from a couple of older Wild Beasts songs, “The Devil’s Palace” is a spare and haunting mood piece; the band’s two singers, Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming, exchange lyrics over a stately keyboard drone, gurgling electronics adding to the track’s pervading sense of unease.
If anything, Wild Beasts are almost too good at creating dread, and the album’s thinly veiled menace starts to feel a little po-faced and monochromatic. Even on cabaret-inspired rockers like “Big Cat” and the fluid “Bed of Nails,” whatever joy the music conjures is tempered by brooding lyrics and a general sense of apprehension. Then again, not many bands are able to find as many different shades of emotional peril as Wild Beasts, and throughout Last Night All My Dreams Came True they prove their knack for despondence as well as tongue-in-cheek hubris, and for busy soundscapes as well as moments of quiet elegance. The album allows listeners to hear Wild Beasts in a new light—for one last time. As such, it pulls off the neat trick of wrapping up their legacy while also adding something new to it.