This Modern Glitch
(Bright Antenna/ ILG/Warners)
In the wake of the Libertines’ 2004 demise, young British guitar rock took on a less dreamy, more direct voice. Arctic Monkeys were their everyman heirs in 2006, and acts such as the Holloways, Good Shoes, the Pigeon Detectives and the Rifles also dominated the pages of the NME with wryly observational songs about girls and drinking. Sprightly sounds combined with sardonic voices were the trend, and some bands did it better than others–twee-punks Los Campesinos! have been able to take this into more intelligent, literate territory, as well as maintaining relevance with their prolific record release rate. The Wombats were also standouts, establishing their sense of humor with the exuberantly infectious single “Let’s Dance To Joy Division.” Debut album The Wombats Proudly Present A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation was a hit across the pond in 2007, and now the Liverpool trio has followed it up with This Modern Glitch (which the BBC declared Pop Album of the Year).
Opening track “Our Perfect Disease” and last year’s single “Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)” seem to reach out to fans of electro-rockers like Friendly Fires. Frontman Matthew Murphy’s endearingly untrained yelp isn’t necessarily a natural fit for dance music, but he’s become much more skilled in using his voice as an instrument in its own right. More recent single “Techno Fan” features Murphy declaring, “I never knew I was a techno fan,” befitting the song’s synth-laden intro and the more dance-oriented approach on the whole album. “Last Night I Dreamt…” recalls the less-polished sound of the Wombats’ debut album, but showcases a more mature musicianship. Songs like “Walking Disasters” and “Girls/Fast Cars” also display significant advances in attention to detail. “Anti-D” even features a string section, something previously absent from their brand of guitar pop.
Lyrically, the Wombats continue to meander through bars and clubs on This Modern Glitch. However, they are no longer backdrops for youthful drama and ennui, as on early track “Backfire At The Disco.” No matter where their stories take place, the songs have become more contemplative, perhaps best exemplified with the wistful nostalgia of “1996.” There’s also the willfully nihilistic “Jump Into The Fog,” which describes picking up a prostitute. “Life tastes sweeter when it’s wrapped in debauchery,” Murphy sings, building up to the song ending in a burst of sputtering, skittering electronic fuzz.
Four years after their arrival on the scene, the Wombats are all grown up. This Modern Glitch encapsulates true maturity, both musically and emotionally. They’re still carving out their niche, and if they can continue to reinvent themselves at this rate, they’ll sound refreshing for years to come.