The pop album of the year, by at least a dozen choruses.
Mark Beaumont 2011
Just as comedy actors, no matter how massive their crowd-draw or how enjoyable their movies, stand a popsicle-in-Hell’s chance of ever winning an Oscar, it’s virtually unthinkable that the second album from Liverpool’s The Wombats will grace the higher echelons of any end-of-year polls or the Mercury shortlist. They cross too many boxes – they’re shamelessly radio-friendly and insanely melodic, they have a ‘wacky’ name and they’re simply too popular/ist to garner much of a credible critical vote. On the contrary, that scraping sound you can hear is the widespread music media dragging their shovels towards This Modern Glitch intending to bury – largely unheard and with extreme prejudice – the leading exponents of what the trolls have deemed "landfill indie".
And what a travesty that burial would be. Because, for its genre – polished, uplifting, chart-bound electro indie-pop – This Modern Glitch is a flawless modern classic to file alongside Free All Angels by Ash, Franz Ferdinand’s debut and Hard-Fi’s Stars of CCTV. Leaning more heavily on synth blares and funk-disco beats than their guitar-orientated debut A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation, it’s like a blast of musical Optrex to the face of 2011. It revitalises the 80s electro-funk-pop revival on the stunning likes of Our Perfect Disease (hyperactive Hurts) and Walking Disasters (morose Marina). It invigorates Naked and Famous-esque synth-pop with jubilant harmonic whoops and trills on 1996 and Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves). And it re-imagines The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony as an anthem of defiance against personal (rather than social) tribulations on the string-swaddled ode to singer Murph’s anti-depressant addiction, Anti-D.
And there’s the kernel to The Wombats’ popularity and (inevitable) longevity. Sure, they sporadically live up to their cartoonish persona by playing the ultimate Nuts readers on fuzz-punker Girls / Fast Cars, or detailing a druggy night in a Hoxton trendster club on single-of-the-decade contender Techno Fan, a song with a hook that’ll punch through you like a jack-hammer. Yet there’s dark, intriguing depths to Murph’s warts-and-all personal exposes that keep the songs writhing like crawling creatures beneath the diamond dust. "Last night I dreamt I died alone!" he wails over the Glasvegas space pomp of Last Night I Dreamt; "We need some pop psychology to keep us upbeat," he advocates on Walking Disasters, where two lovers find consolation in mutual self-loathing. And when closer Schumacher the Champagne breaks into the album’s all-out-metal crescendo, Murph bellows The Wombats’ defining, defiant statement: "Take me as I am, or not at all!"
And take them you most certainly should. Those with their tongue fast to the perineum of the zeitgeist will balk at such brazen, unpretentious pleasures as you’ll find here, and more fool them. The Wombats will never have the cult kudos of a Sufjan, the culture buzz of a Jessie J or the critical awe of an Arcade Fire or Radiohead. But for the flagrant pop thrill-seeker – judging by this incredible, irrepressible, ecstatic, brilliant record – neither will they ever disappoint. Don’t believe the anti-hype: pop album of the year, by at least a dozen choruses.
- - -