Saturday, 23 April 2011

Album Review: The Wombats - This Modern Glitch

Album: This Modern Glitch
Artist: The Wombats
Singles: Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), Jump Into The Fog, Anti-D, Techno Fan

Well, this has been a long time coming. Four years after the band's debut A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation, the catchy guitar riffs that littered it have been replaced with synths, in keeping with what a lot of bands are doing these days. The album was originally set for a 29th November 2010 release, but it got pushed back three times, resulting in more and more singles coming out before the album, and the fact that three of them are just one after the other makes the album drag a bit; not because they're bad songs (quite the opposite), but just because you've heard them all before. However, I know that not many people will have overplayed these singles as much as I have, so in this review I've tried to bear that in mind.

Our Perfect Disease
An absolutely stunning opener. We're thrown right in with synths and vocals, instantly recognisable as a new direction for the band. Soon, a little cheesy sounding synth line pops up to lead us into the chorus of "it was the perfect disease we had" where the guitars return, albeit confined to the background, and the song becomes almost danceable. And then, it really gets going. With traditional Wombats "ooh-ooh-ooh"s and "ah-ah-ah"s, the song hurtles forward yet again, growing and growing up to the final chorus, ending abruptly on the last line "We all need someone to drive us mad".

Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)
Now we're entering the run of singles that have already been released. This one is the oldest, having been released roughly seven months ago. It was the right choice for first single, in my opinion. It has a memorable synth line, a catchy beat, and a sing-along chorus. However, I would consider this to be my least favourite on the album (I had to quickly run through every song in my head again to check that was actually true, but it is) - maybe it's because I've played it so many times, or maybe it's just because it doesn't really go anywhere. But even though this is my least favourite, it's still decent enough not to make me want to press the 'next' button.

Jump Into The Fog
The second single, and, once upon a time, a free download. Again it's got the right qualities for a single, with its catchy tune and its nice, big chorus, complete with the backing of a choir. "We feel nothing so jump into the fog, in the hope that we hit the ground upright", goes the chorus, with singer Matthew Murphy's vocals showing off their range. The song ends quite heavily, guitars and synths almost drowning out the chant of "jump into the fog!". Again, I may have heard this one too much already, but it's not up there with my favourites from this album.

This song is a much more mature-sounding one than anything off the first album or even anything else on this one, with an unexpected strings section opening it up. It opens with the line "Please allow me to be your anti-depressant" - a line I never thought I'd hear opening a song. The lyrics as a whole feel like they've tried to cram a little too much into certain lines, but after a few listens that doesn't matter. At first it's hard to discern why this became a single, but by the 2-minute mark when the familiar Wombats 'ah-ah-ah's pop up, the song turns epic. It's maybe more of a grower than we're used to from this band, and it is very different to what we might expect from them - but once it hits home, it's kind of refreshing. (Yes, I did copy that from my original single review, but it seemed the best way to imitate what I felt about it first time round)

Last Night I Dreamt...
This song opens in epic fashion, with a huge guitar-synth combination bringing you back up to full speed after the relatively slow Anti-D. The verses drive the song forward on this song; the chorus, although still good, seems to be a bit of an anti-climax after the opening parts seemed to promise something huge, but it seems to calm down instead. But it's still a great song, and grows and grows on repeat listens. The last line of the song had me going back a few seconds to see if I had heard him right (and I had): "when I lost my virginity, I've never been known to frighten easily". Interesting lyrics, at the very least.

Techno Fan
The upcoming fourth single is actually one of my top songs for this album, unlike the other three (although I'm making that sound like I don't like the other three, when I really do) This one follows slightly in the footsteps of Our Perfect Disease, building up to a first chorus before calming it down, and then just exploding straight afterwards. When the second chorus comes round, you'll find yourself wanting to sing along to "shut up and move with me, move with me..." Definitely one of the highlights of the album.

Another one of my favourites (not my absolute favourite, that's yet to come). Even though it's a fairly standard affair, its verses have a catchy beat and the chorus is huge-sounding and quite memorable. "We kissed with one eye on our TV set, and the more I give, the less I get" it goes. And it gets better as guitars make their way to the forefront of the song around three minutes in. As the rest of the band backs up Murphy with their "da-da-da"s matching the tune to the chorus as he sings "I'll never beat those teenage kicks", we are treated to an epic ending to an epic song.

Walking Disasters
This one fools you at first into thinking it's got a sort of summery vibe to it, but the bass comes in to turn it into a slightly deeper song, whilst retaining the catchiness of its beat. It also features one of my favourite lyrics; "If these words won't drop from your lips, I will be your Freudian slip". It slows down the pace a little bit, and is probably the closest you're going to get to the Wombats of 2007 on this album, even though its still quite a long way off. Still it's quite impressive. The last 20 seconds serve as a build up to...

Girls / Fast Cars
The best song on the album by a long way, this one is an absolutely storming rock song, although it's quite reserved for the first 45 seconds. The chorus is the ultimate sing-along, "I like girls! Girls and fast cars! It's cheap and it's pathetic, but you can't hate me just because". The last 30 seconds are just absolutely spine-tingling,one of the best moments in music I've heard this year. My only complaint is that it's over so quickly that I needed to listen to it again straight after! Yes, it's that good.

Schumacher The Champagne
This one is quite an unexpected ending, slowing down the pace a bit, with arcade-style synths backing quite a lot of the song. However, the keyword for the whole of this album is 'catchy', and this one adheres to this. It does require a few repeat listens to sink in, as it's more of a build-up song, but the ending is perhaps the heaviest thing on the album, vocals sounding slightly over-amplified and guitars turned up to 11. And to close it off completely, 45 seconds of randomness reminiscent of the chorus in Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) - slightly odd but oh well.

Well, overall, it's a absolutely amazing blend of electronic, pop and indie music, with some incredibly catchy and upbeat moments all throughout. The only exception to this is Anti-D, where they adopt a slightly more serious approach (to be fair, the song is about dealing with depression) but even that one has its moments. There's not a single song that I don't like on here, every single one has got certain moments that I love hearing. And Girls / Fast Cars is the ultimate highlight - if they don't play this one live, I'll be amazed. I think it should have been a single rather than Anti-D. But oh well, I have the album now and I'll listen to it as many times as I want! But the band have avoided second album problems, as the results are energetic, playful, catchy, and sounds absolutely massive at times.


Previous albums: A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation (7/10)

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