The Wombats - This Modern Glitch
You’d be forgiven for thinking during opening track ‘Our Perfect Disease’ that The Wombats had done a Hollywood and gone dark for their second album. Gone are the chirpy, irreverent tales of unrequited love to be replaced by a more solemn, downbeat take on the matter: “It was the perfect disease we had / Something to argue and scream about” – and also absent are the infectious guitar hooks, replaced by repetitive, unsettling synths that introduce us to a side of them only hinted at on the debut. Thankfully though, the perky electro of 'Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)' swiftly comes along to show The Wombats haven’t lost their sense of entertainment that made their debut such a joy, although This Modern Glitch does see them attempt to evolve musically – to largely successful results.
Probably their biggest evolution comes with the marked move away from instant guitar hooks that littered their debut, resulting in a stronger diversity this time round. We’ve already touched on the differences in the opening track, but the likes of ‘Jump Into The Fog’ and ‘Schumacher The Champagne’ tread new ground for the band as well; the former puts spacey synths to effective use, suiting the murkiness of the lyrics ("It's not a big problem with me love / You don't look that hygenic anyway"), while the latter makes a much better impression on record than it did live, with its throbbing synths and melancholic vocal harmonies descending into crunching grunge rock – a prospect that isn’t as horrifying as you might expect. They haven’t lost their lighter touch though with ‘Girls/Fast Cars’ particularly self-deprecating and enjoyably childish – “I like girls / Girls and fast cars / It’s cheap and it’s pathetic / But you can’t hate me just because”.
Album standout is ‘1996’ which serves as a great companion piece to ‘School Uniforms’ from their debut. Whereas that track had Murph glad that he wasn’t back in school, ‘1996’ has him wishing for the good old days (like most adults do) all wrapped up in the type of awkward love tale that he spins so well – “Now it feels like / We kiss with one eye on our TV set / And the more I give, the less I get”. It’s also one of the only tracks on the album, along with ‘Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)’, that attempts to marry both the old and the new side with key hooks blending into a great guitar solo outro that gives the track the punch it deserves.
The experiments don’t always work and it’s no more telling than on the aptly-titled ‘Walking Disasters’. It’s the one track where it feels like they’ve just pressed a preset button on their synths and layered the vocals on top, without successfully merging the two. It falls completely flat as a result, even when the guitars come in and try to build an effective finish as they quickly give away to the same nondescript synths. Latest single ‘Anti-D’ as well is notable only for its impressive violins and can only be making an ironic statement as it’s the dullest here and will have you reaching for the citalopram if you even manage to last more than one listen.
Much like their debut, it’s all pretty disposable stuff but it’s undeniably enjoyable while it lasts apart from the odd misstep. Almost as if Murph was trying to pre-empt criticism, ‘Girls/Fast Cars’ sees him sing “What I feel is what I say / I’m not trying to be smart” and it’s precisely that which makes The Wombats work. This Modern Glitch is never going to be an award-winner but however much you won’t admit it in public, you’ll probably find yourself returning to it over more notable fare simply because it’s fun; we’d take that over being dark any day of the week.