Let’s be honest, how could an album that contains Let’s Dance To Joy Division possibly fail? It just can’t, can it? Singles like this come along about once every five years, if not once a decade. This one song alone would have ensured The Wombats a glowing review.
That’s not all the lads from 2008’s European City of Culture have to offer, though. From the opening acapella harmonising of Tales Of Girls, Boys and Marsupials, which also kicks off their near-perfect live performances, A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation is a wonderful musical experience, easily one of the albums of the year and one of those irritating debuts that are so good they should be illegal.
Pah! You say? Average shouty pop, you claim? Rubbish novelty records, you whinge? You are mad, we say. Mad! Backfire At The Disco, Party In A Forest (Where’s Laura) and Patricia The Stripper are every bit as good as Let’s Dance itself, which is very, very, very, very good indeed. As is Kill The Director – even if it did outstay its welcome on the radio – and just about every other track you’ll find here.
The album, like their live set, is shot through with fun, infectious wit and a desire to create perfect pop while not taking themselves too seriously. You have to hope this level of accomplishment has to be something you’re born with but if it was instilled into them at Macca’s Liverpool School of Performing Arts, where Matthew Murphy, Dan Haggis and Tord Overland Knudsen met, their teachers deserve a lifetime achievement award from every music awards committee going. Which is quite a lot, these days.
Their sound is a perfect fusion of more styles than should work together well, from rock’n’roll to garage to the jerky pop rock of new wave-via-Franz-and-the-Kaisers, no doubt partly due to mixer Rich Costey, who’s worked with the former, and producer Stephen Harris, who’s sorted out the latter. In between, there’s the Scouse parochialism of Penny Lane, the tempo of Ian Dury and The Blockheads and a love of stuffed marsupials that’s all their own.
The Wombats are a rare gem. Catchy enough for the charts, indie enough for the music press, sarcastic enough for the miserable sods who moan that music was better when it came on slabs of black plastic, fresh enough for the kids who are getting a bit fed up with Arctic Monkeys and, best of all, clever enough to get Joy Division fans onto the dancefloor in a more original way than Bernard Sumner ever thought of. And with better tunes.