Album Review: The Wombats’ Glitterbug
The Wombats really love Australia. Like, really love it. Aside from the obvious fact they named their band after one of our cuddliest marsupials, they also seem to swing by every six months for a tour – earlier this year they even let some lucky fans get loose at a secret gig at Melbourne’s Shebeen. With all this gallivanting between the UK and Aus, it’s no surprise their latest album Glitterbug has only just been released, more than a year after the first single in September 2013. But don’t worry folks, at Vulture we have been wrapping our ears around it and are pleased to tell you Glitterbug is worth the wait.
Immediately we can hear Murph, Dan and Tord (yeah, we’re on first name basis) have decided to keep up the synthy electronic vibes they gave us on 2011’s This Modern Glitch. They aren’t afraid of a good pop-culture reference, keeping things topical with album opener ‘Emoticons’, a somewhat restrained track which is nonetheless relatable – who hasn’t had to decipher a bunch of obscure emojis? They kick things up a notch with the infectious ‘Give Me A Try’, which contains the mix of euphoria and desperation we’ve come to expect from the lads. By now the tone of the album has been set – it’s all about partying and shitty relationships and trying to capture a bit of magic when your brain has a penchant for making everything painful.
In some ways Glitterbug is already familiar to fans of The Wombats – songs like ‘Greek Tragedy’ contain the lyrics “smashing mics in karaoke bars”, making it feel like they never left those seedy venues in ‘Tokyo, Vampires and Wolves’. But there’s something different this time around – things are a little less gloomy, and a little more manic. Their experiments with synths and sleek production values have culminated in tracks like ‘Be Your Shadow’ and ‘Headspace’ which feel almost like an 80s throwback – and we mean that in the best possible way. Much like the rest of their back catalogue, these are songs that will have you dancing away, screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs before you realise how dark they are. The exception to this comes at the mid-point of the album – ‘Isabel’ is slower and more considerate, lamenting the destructive power of a dysfunctional relationship that feels like the centre of the world. It’s hollow and tender and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Things pick up once again with ‘Your Body is Weapon’, the first single that was released well over a year ago. It hasn’t lost any of its bite with age, and remains an album standout with its frenzied refrain “Someone protect me from the one I love.” The Wombats’ decision to round out album number three with ‘Curveballs’ is a bold one – it’s definitely not the raucous and shambolic closer they’ve used on their previous releases. Its delicate synths and wailing chorus give it a kind of vulnerability and as it trails out with whispers of “I can’t keep up with these curveballs…” you’re left wondering where the Wombats will go next.
Glitterbug is an album about devotion – devotion to late nights, substances, painful relationships and self-destruction. It’s crammed full of songs that will force you to dance and thrash and jump around until the early hours of the morning, when the high wears off and the silence sets in. In those silences you can hear the essence of the album, one that is dark and sometimes uncomfortable. The Wombats are a little more grown up than they were last time around, and their moody, contemplative vibes are offset with a sense of ecstasy that has come to characterise their work. It feels like The Wombats have had to go through a lot over the past few years to come out with Glitterbug, but it has resulted in an album that will stay with you well after the synths have faded out.