There are few albums with the infectious charm of The Wombats’ debut, A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation, which was released in 2007. No, it wasn’t the most sophisticated or groundbreaking of records and it was squarely aimed at Sixth Formers and teenagers, but singles such as Kill The Director, Moving To New York and Let’s Dance To Joy Division were undeniably catchy. They also provided the perfect soundtrack to The Inbetweeners.
However, while the sound of the Liverpool trio’s debut was enjoyable in its youthful exuberance, there comes a time when a band has to grow and evolve. The Wombats’ second album, 2011‘s This Modern Glitch, didn’t exactly show a great deal of progression, despite leaning heavier on glossy synths. It was by no means a bad album, but it reviewed mixed reviews from critics and resulted in some dismissing the band as “landfill indie”.
Four years on from The Modern Glitch, The Wombats are back with their third effort, titled Glitterbug, which comes at a pivotal point in their career. Many of those ‘Inbetweeners’ who fell in love with the band when they released their debut nearly a decade ago have grown up and probably grown out of the threesome’s colourful indie pop. This means Glitterbug needs to find virtually a completely new audience.
Rather than drastically change their sound, though, The Wombats have decided to stick to what they know with their new LP, as demonstrated by lead single Your Body Is A Weapon, which wouldn’t sound out of place on A Guide To Love… It is a slice of euphoric pop, with its jaunty guitar hook providing the basis for Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy’s distinctive yelp, as he sings: “Your body is a weapon, love/ and it makes me wanna cry/ my body is a temple of doom/ doomed not to be by your side.”
The rest of the record is much of the same. If anything, Glitterbug is The Wombats’ attempt to rediscover their earlier sound. Opener Emoticons – which is a title only a few bands could get away with – does little of note until it reaches its soaring chorus, where Murph passionately belts out: “And all these emoticons and words, try to make it better but they only make it worse.”
It is followed by Give Me A Try, which is much more successful at delivering the kind of bouncy indie pop that they made their name with, as Murph once again sings about heartache – although in a slightly less leery way than Your Body Is A Weapon. Elsewhere, tracks such as Headspace and This Is Not A Party come and go without making any significant impact – and that is a big problem for a band such as The Wombats.
The reason that their debut provided the soundtrack for so many teens was because it delivered a series of memorable singles. The same cannot be said of Glitterbug, where it almost sounds as if they are trying too hard to recapture the magic of first effort. Greek Tragedy builds up to a thumping, anthemic chorus, but once it’s over it is unlikely to stick in the head in the same effortless way that Moving To New York or Kill The Director managed.
Even the album’s best moments tend to fall a bit flat when compared to those early singles, while at it’s worst – Pink Lemonade leaves a particularly sour taste – The Wombats’ just sound a bit clueless. It would be easy to suggest that the band’s sound has just aged badly during their prolonged time away, but their earlier material still holds up. The reality is that Glitterbug just doesn’t excite or leave any lasting impression. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess.