It seems implausible that Liverpool’s The Wombats have been around for nearly 20 years and are now onto their fifth album. Yet not only have they survived, they’ve gone it alone, and thanks to the vagaries of social media and streaming habits, they’ve flourished. Oliver Nelson‘s remix of their 2015 track Greek Tragedy has found a foothold on Tik Tok, which has bought them to the attention of a whole new generation of fans.
Presumably anyone who can remember The Wombats from their heady noughties days doesn’t know what a Tik Tok is. But it’s helped them to a whole new following on Spotify, which must have netted them quite a princely sum (ahem) when all added together, for they’ve been streamed over one and a half billion times. The upshot is a headline show at London’s O2 Arena on their next tour, something that not so long ago would have seemed, if not impossible, then at least extremely unlikely.
To be fair to The Wombats, it’s all too easy to point at streaming stats and viral good luck, but they have always had a way of writing a good tune that sits with you. Sure, they could easily have fallen into the dumpster marked “indie landfill”, but through hard work and some good songs, they’re the climax of Toy Story 3 but made with wombats.
All of which brings us to their fifth album, Fix Yourself, Not The World. Pieced together over distance, as so many have this last couple of years, the band have swapped plans and files between Oslo, London and Los Angeles to create these songs, and then fired them off to an impressive list of producers to mix them. So this album finds them working with the likes of Jacknife Lee, Gabe Simon and Mark Crossey amongst others, and the result somehow hangs together surprisingly well. Distance, it seems, is no barrier, when there’s something special happening and there’s a drive and determination to make it work.
It’s fair to say that The Wombats have moved away from their roots over the years, which is probably why they’ve endured. Yet it’s not as if they’ve veered into avant garde territory, but as Fix Yourself proves, they’re not beyond embracing pop nous and dancefloor polish. The result is an album that doesn’t push at any boundaries, but is designed to get their younger audience moving. It helps that they have a way with a hook; The Wombats will worm their way into your skull. You Flip Me Upside Down sets their stall out early. Smart harmonies and lyrics, a nod to dance bounce, and a punchy stripped back guitar line combine to make a concise opening statement. This Car Drives All By Itself plays the same trick, but ramps up the catchy chorus quotient. Perhaps the finest moment comes in the shape of the slightly unsettling If You Ever Leave I’m Coming With You, which pitches those pop sensibilities against a carefully written tale of obsession, possession and stalking. The Wombats can still switch things up and add a little twist. There’s heft, too; Ready For The High throws distortion into the mix whilst Wildfire aims at the kind of bellowed lines that fill venues nicely.
When they’re on the game, The Wombats are well capable of turning heads and catching ears (People Don’t Change People, Time Does) and they have a pleasing habit of writing songs that sound remarkably cheerful despite sporting bleak subject matter (Everything I Love Is Going To Die). They’re not always successful. The likes of Don’t Poke The Bear are throwaway and spoil the album’s momentum, which suggests they could do with a little careful curation before they make a truly killer album. For now though, The Wombats have clearly found a new lease of life, despite the distance and challenges thrown up by an increasingly fragmented and fearful world. They’ve fixed themselves. Maybe we should be following their example.