If The Wombats realized in 2011’s “The Modern Glitch” that they were techno fans, then with their new album “Glitterbug” they have fully embraced the electronic pop first introduced to their catchy UK pop rock sound four years ago. Though a far departure from the drum-driven pop rock of their 2007 international debut album “Tales of Love, Loss, & Desperation” (their technical debut album “Girls Boys & Marsupials” was originally released only in Japan) and certainly not as innovative as “The Modern Glitch,” it is still a fun album that is sure to be a hit among fans of other 80s inspired bands, like the more refined Bleachers or fellow countrymen The 1975.
The album starts out slow with “Emoticons,” a relatable tune for anyone who has dated during the 21st century, however it is a little too mellow as an opening track, especially when compared to “Tales of Girls, Boys, & Marsupials”/”Kill The Director” and “Perfect Disease” from their last two full-lengths. The second track, “Give Me A Try,” would have been a much more compelling opener, especially since it evokes their previous work “Girls/Fast Cars” (I’m on the look out for a mash-up from my musically inclined friends on the internet, so if you’re into remixing hit me up). My personal favorite song, and another track which I think would have been an excellent opener as it sounds new but still catchy, is third track “Greek Tragedy,” which is reminiscent of “1996” but with a darker, heavier twist (check out the music video if you haven’t already, especially if you’ve ever seen “Skins”). It also features harmonizing, which is part of the reason why I originally fell in love with The Wombats’ sound so many years ago (and not just because I have a huge crush on drummer Dan Haggis, but really, I’ll be at your show next week so hit me up).
“Be Your Shadow” sounds like a Genesis remake (I would love for an “Invisible Touch”/”Be Your Shadow” remix as well please, so someone should make it happen), which is funny because this 80s style is pretty hallmark of Bleachers who also have a song called “Shadow.” This new vogue is compounded by the next track, “Headspace,” which sounds like something right out of “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack. “This Is Not A Party” should be on everyone’s summer party playlist – unless you’re friends are like mine and they prefer rap, in which case it’s time for new friends (jk guys, ily). “Isabel” sounds like a throwback to “Little Miss Pipedream” but with no drums. Seriously guys, where are the drums?
Of course then there’s “Your Body Is A Weapon” which you all should be familiar with by now. I’ve listened to it so many times at this point it no longer sounds as catchy and hip as when I first heard it, but that is more telling of my own listening habits than the quality of the song. “The English Summer” sounds super reminiscent of “My First Wedding” and is finally a nice throwback with some quality drums. Though they aren’t amazing, it’s still not a drum machine and it makes me happy. “Pink Lemonade” will make you feel like your love life is uncomplicated, which is why you should download it regardless. Really, I mean it’s a great song that will most likely make you feel great about yourself, and is fun to listen to, along with sounding like something straight from Smallpools but with a British accent.
“Curveballs” is just a great song that has some real drums (again nothing too new but you can hear an actual drum kit at times) that sounds eighties inspired without being as dated as “Headspace” and “Be Your Shadow.” It’s got harmonies and a sexy beat and reminds me a lot of Walk The Moon, so I think The Wombats may gain some new fans thanks to this number.
“Sex and Question Marks,” the penultimate track, is probably the most iconic of The Wombats sound. It’s got some fun drumstick work going on in the background with a bit of harmonizing and this guitar riff thrown between verses that may remind listeners of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also would have been a great opening track especially with the line “What happened to us?” vocalizing what listeners are thinking about The Wombats’ evolved sound. The deluxe album awkwardly ends it with “Flowerbomb.” It’s a decent, if boring track but the beat doesn’t create a great musical journey with the rest of the album.
For the most part the drums have seriously taken a back seat and in most numbers could, and probably are, replaced by a drum machine, which is a serious shame (again, I swear, it’s not just because I have a massive crush on Dan). The musical style feels like a continuation of a trend, but with bands like The 1975, Bleachers, Walk The Moon, and Smallpools, who all do electronic, retro pop rock much more eloquently, The Wombats may get lost in the indie music scene. It’s a great album for fans of those bands who may have not appreciated The Wombats’ previous work, but I don’t think it can really compete with its contemporaries.
All in all, it’s a good album because The Wombats are a good band, but it isn’t as catchy or impressively drum-y as their first album and it certainly doesn’t make me feel as much as “The Modern Glitch,” which was filled with as much artistic angst as “Tales of Love, Loss, & Desperation” was filled with awkwardly bubbly clever lyrics. Really though, the album is pretty solid – maybe a little too electronic-y with not enough REAL drums or innovative drumlines, but it’s fun and it’s summery and I’m excited because I know they’ll be able to put on a great show with these new songs.
TL;DR “Glitterbug” is a solid summer album for fans of The Wombats as well as Walk The Moon, Smallpools, Bleachers, and The 1975. Must listen tracks include “Greek Tragedy,” “Your Body Is A Weapon,” “English Summer,” and “Curveballs.” Check them out at the 9:30 club on April 30th (that is if you already have tickets, the show is sold out!)