Remarkably, this is The Wombats’ 19th year together and possibly their biggest career-wise. The Liverpool band rose to national fame in 2007 with their perky indie hit ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ and have spent years bouncing, bellowing and soul-baring their way to the top ever since. Nearly two decades in, they have managed to do what many bands before them have executed so poorly - perfectly honed in on an eminently catchy version of alternative rock that meets indie-pop.
Described as a “self-help manual for the domesticated malcontent,” their fifth album ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ has a recurring theme of fixing throughout. The remarkably cohesive, inventive and forward-thinking guitar pop record finds frontman Matthew Murphy turning a psychological corner and highlights the bands bond and experience to power through such setbacks.
Opening with the funky ‘You Flip Me Upside Down’, Murphy’s instantly recognisable vocals lay over addictive key changes that The Wombats are most known for. The trash disco funk-punk track is simple melodically but lifted by some skilful appropriation such as glimpses of several decades worth of British alt-rock greats. The lyrics “so baby keep your big mouth shut and stop wasting my time” is reminiscent of those like Alex Turner and Matty Healy, showing that despite times changing, The Wombats are abundantly aware of which era they emerged in.
Already released ‘If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You’ reminds listeners why The Wombats are still around. The minute the song kicks in, the raucous energy and Murphy’s classic high notes in the opening sequence are nostalgic of the bands earlier works. As the track starts immediately, the electro-pop ode to obsessive devotion grows sonically with synths layered over pristine drum beats and a feisty guitar bass, making it pack a punch and worthy of being a single track. It is a traditional Wombats banger that any OG fan won’t be disappointed by.
Nearing the end of the album, ‘Worry’ discusses superstitions, paranoias and idiosyncrasies. On a wider note, the anthemic track deals with themes of anxiety and is “supposed to be inside the head of someone who’s losing it a bit.” The hard-hitting lyrics juxtapose the confident funk pop melodies but maybe that’s the point. The penultimate track is dotted with snippets of Murphy discussing the everyday irritations that drive him to distraction, which is somewhat comforting, and maybe the noticeable difference in lyrics to melody is a way of expressing these intrusive thoughts.
It is evident to see that The Wombats have evolved since the beginning of their career but have kept that distinctive sound that catapulted them into stardom. The rest of the album continues to deliver confident funk pop to tech-rock and is the first indie release of 2022 that might weigh into a fight for the top of the album charts. Perhaps it’s their captivating storytelling taking a psychological turn, or maybe it’s the way they’ve incorporated cutting edge electronica, pop and R&B elements into the melodic energies of classic new wave, alt-rock and indietronica, but, ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ is a record that will appeal. It is arguably their best work yet.
Words: Shannon Garner
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