Glitterbug Review

artist: The Wombats date: 04/23/2015 category: compact discs
The Wombats: Glitterbug
Released: Apr 13, 2015
Genre: Indie Rock, Indietronica, Indie Pop
Label: 14th Floor Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
In their third album, "Glitterbug," The Wombats all but completely abandon their indie rock roots for an indietronica sound.
 Sound: 6
 Lyrics: 4
 Overall Impression: 5
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overall: 5
Glitterbug Featured review by: UG Team, on april 23, 2015
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Coming to form in the British indie rock surge of the 21st century, The Wombats were late bloomers out of the lot of their peers. With their worldwide debut album, "A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation," coming out in 2007, they were more than fashionably late to the party of the trendy subgenre. But while they didn't arrive as tastemakers, they made their own name as being the ones to critique the music culture around them - from satirizing the hipster movement in "Moving to New York," jabbing the emo scene with "Backfire at the Disco," and even making fun of their own demographic with "Let's Dance to Joy Division."

Taking a fair amount of time to make their follow-up album, 2011's "This Modern Glitch," The Wombats would change up their style from the stark indie rock they began as, appending a large amount of electronica elements to their indie rock. Sonically, the balance between their new sound and old sound worked well, but perhaps more importantly, the band's sense of humor and culture criticism were still intact - not only poking fun at the notion of the beta-male indie rock that they'd be classified as with "Girls/Fast Cars," but also referring to their own veering into a more electronica-oriented sound with "Techno Fan." Perhaps The Wombats' self-deprecating, "nothing's too serious" persona was more important than the music that it came in.

Once again, The Wombats would need another four years before releasing their next album, entitled "Glitterbug." Though the first single they debuted from that album, "Your Body Is a Weapon," didn't seem like much had changed, "Glitterbug" once again brings forth a significant change in the band's sound, banking even more on the contemporary indietronica style than "This Modern Glitch." Synthesizers are the primary building blocks used in the vast majority of the album, both retro (like the analog-fueled indietronica cut of "This Is Not a Party") and contemporary (like the higher-fidelity synth arpeggios that twinkle about in "Greek Tragedy"), leaving the band's rock instruments playing the most minor roles they've ever had. But though the band do a good job decorating their songs with these arrays of synths, the big problem, like The Wombats' earlier material, is that they ride the coattails of the more popular - the progressive house feel of "Give Me a Try" sounds like off-brand Avicii, "Headspace" is indie pop via Capital Cities, and the dour ballad of "Isabel" takes a page out of Coldplay's cookbook.

While the significant change in their sonic priorities is bound to polarize listeners, The Wombats do stick to their guns unapologetically throughout most of the album, but near the final stretch of the album, they waver on this newfound synths-first commitment, and decide to pick up their rock instruments again. Whereas "Your Body Is a Weapon" contains a songwriting recipe similar to anything found in "This Modern Glitch," "The English Summer" digs up the stark indie rock style of early-era Wombats, which comes off very off-kilter on an album that's near entirely sworn off of that style. "Pink Lemonade" does another decent job pairing the band's indie rock elements with the stacks of synths (with props given to Tord Overland Knudsen's basslines), but in the end, the band once again borrow other recipes, and the final song "Curveballs" sounds like a cross between latter-era Minus The Bear and a grandiose Passion Pit chorus. // 6

Lyrics: Aside from needling subcultures with a shit-eating grin, frontman Matthew Murphy's lyrics have always chronicled his unlucky-in-love experiences, though he used his cynical humor to deliver it in order to counterweight the emo factor of his lovesickness. However, much like the significant change in sound, Murphy changes up his lyrical chemistry in "Glitterbug" by cutting out the humor and doubling down on the seriousness. Murphy's uncut emotion is wielded heavily in this batch of relationship stories - from the shaky preambles of hooking up in "Give Me a Try," and reveling in masochism in "Be Your Shadow" and "Isabel," to the aggravated miscommunication of "Emoticons," and the post-breakup pondering of an ex happier with a new partner in "Pink Lemonade" - but there's little more that Murphy's lyrics aspire to than being target choices for chick-flick soundtracks. And with half-baked analogies (like "My body is a temple of doom / Doomed not to be by your side" in "Your Body Is a Weapon") and some lines moving like they have two left feet (like "'Cuz I feel feel feel like a disco ball / From the 1970s all dusty and worn" in "Headspace"), Murphy abstaining from his own humor is a substantial hamstringing of his own lyrical abilities. // 4

Overall Impression: Though the primary indietronica flavor of "Glitterbug" may seem jarring to those that still identify The Wombats with "A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation," with the heavy synthesizer usage growing more and more prominent in indie rock, it's not that shocking of a change. Perhaps what's more disserving than the lack of indie rock energy on the album, though, is the lack of trademark Wombats silliness. Emulating the indie rock trends with a mocking smile had always been The Wombats' best role, where they'd laugh at the indie rock bands in the rat race while they were abstracted on the sidelines. But with the serious demeanor of "Glitterbug," The Wombats now put themselves in that race they used to mock - and with several cases showing the band's changes in sound essentially cribbing style from their more successful peers, it's a race they cannot win. // 5

- Sam Mendez (c) 2015

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