Posted on April 8th, 2015 (9:00 am) by Staff

The first thing one notices about the third album from The Wombats is that it doesn't appear to be ‘Proudly Presented’ this time. No worries, the familiar tag-line may be gone from the title but The Wombats should still be quite proud of Glitterbug.

Produced by Mark Crew (Bastille) and the band themselves, Glitterbug has thirteen tracks (deluxe version) in all, and is exactly the type of release you hope a band will accomplish coming into a ‘much awaited follow-up album.’ By that we mean that it is immediately recognizable as the band you expected, but with the elements of growth and maturity you’d hoped for.

From the first track, "Emoticons," you’re caught up in the rolling refrain and fuzzy guitar bits that lead straight into a '70s inspired flirtation with cheese. It’s nearly mocking itself, but then blasts into a thoroughly modern bridge that reminds you just how musically clever these guys are.

Lead singer Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy’s voice has never sounded better. A range that moves smoothly from a soft croon to high, punchy refrains is arguably one of the more recognizable voices in indie-pop music. On Glitterbug, Murph is clearly in top form, his voice easily conforming whether it’s singing along with the club-thumping beats of "Give Me a Try" and "This is Not a Party" or more poppy sounds such as in the somewhat soppy, ("You make me shake, even though I’m warm..." ugh!) but enjoyable, track “Flowerball."

The other parts of the triad o’ Wombat are drummer Daniel Haggis and bassist Tord Overland-Knudsen. Both are multi-instrumentalists playing their principal parts while picking up on keys and providing the backing vocals that are one of the trademarks to the multi-layered construction of The Wombats’ sound. Whichever track on Glitterbug you’re listening to, The Wombat’s never let you forget that under the clever keys, synths and tweaks of sound there’s solid musicianship. Listen closely to the intricate mixing, the layers of guitars, percussion and bass that come together so seamlessly, they’re almost sneaky in their execution. Their sound is perfected in the track "Give Me a Try," probably one of the most memorable, solid tracks on the album with a hook that can’t be denied. It is firmly The Wombats and inarguably fresh!

There’s a good balance of sound on Glitterbug too. Some parts feel as if they’re built for late nights under the lights while others seem crafted for the morning after the lights, like the almost painfully intimate “Isabel." Muted percussion and the smoky lyrics carry the trademark Wombats’ raw honesty. And even though the lyrics are guaranteed to make the girls clutch their hearts and the boys wish they’d thought to say that, this track remains totally uncontrived and genuine.

However, these slower interludes are few on any Wombats album and Glitterbug is no exception. Seconds after being lulled into a bit of a wallow, you’re tossed back into the mix with the upbeat tracks like "Your Body is A Weapon" and "An English Summer" which bring in a raw, punk rock familiarity that’s very reminiscent of one of the band’s early tracks, "Party in the Forest."

So all that said, are there any downsides to the album? Possibly.

Glitterbug has clearly been produced with tight attention to detail. In the process, some of the edginess, that rawness of sound that has marked The Wombats' work to date, has been produced out of some chunks of this album. "Pink Lemonade," for instance, feels a little forced, both lyrically and musically. While there is always a touch of irony to The Wombats' music and lyrics, this one misses the irony mark right at the start and has an only a somewhat redeeming finish. "Curveball" is another example of this. The Passion Pit style refrain, echoing high over the music as it curves back into itself, is a little disappointingly rote these days, so the track sits somewhat awkwardly amongst the more interesting and more original pieces like "Give Me a Try," "Greek Tragedy," and "This is Not a Party."

That being said, the strong songs and Murph’s somewhat self-deprecating trademark lyrics, juxtaposed against clever riffs and catchy-as-hell refrains make it easy to shrug off the couple of less than shiny tracks. The biggest miss, in true Wombats ironic style, is that in the end the great production value stifles some of the sense of utter spontaneity we’ve come to expect from them. To me, a Wombats album feels like you just walked in on a stranger’s house party and they’re perfectly glad you’re there. While Glitterbug still welcomes you to the party, this time you get the feeling you might get kicked out if you break something. This sense of constraint is possibly just the (inevitable) side effect of graduating from keg parties to wine bars. While the wine fits The Wombats, or more likely while they’ve made it fit them, part of me can’t help wishing for just a few more Solo cups in the mix.

When it comes down to it, the final product is a well planned, smoothly executed chunk of thirteen songs with interesting twists and turns built on a solid, if occasionally overly safe, foundation. It leaves you glad you’ve listened and confirms that the band has more than one musical trick. It’s a good time, a good album, and one hell of a way to kick off the spring's round of new music.

The album officially drops on April 13th and then The Wombats are touring the US this spring. Playin a mid-size venue junket they're bringing the new album live to the masses. This is a great thing, as seeing The Wombats live is an experience in and of itself; a fantastic way to hear the music. Let’s put it this way...if you’re going to the show, you'll want to bring your Solo cup.

Dan Haggis shot at Mercury Lounge, January 2015 for The Wombats by Sarah L Wilson Photography, used with permission

Track List:

  1. Emoticons
  2. Give Me a Try
  3. Greek Tragedy
  4. Be Your Shadow
  5. Headspace
  6. This Is Not a Party
  7. Isabel
  8. Your Body Is a Weapon
  9. The English Summer
  10. Pink Lemonade
  11. Curveballs
  12. Sex and Question Marks
  13. Flowerball
The Wombats, Glitterbug
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

80 / 100
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