Review Summary: These inconsistent Wombats will release a great Best Of compilation one day.
While the subject ranges from trivial to an integral bone of contention, it is always interesting to see what songs an artist (and/or their label) release as singles. One can imagine many a back-room debate concerning the decisions, with internal power struggles, hypocritical principles and objective adjudicators all a possibility to enter the process. One band who has found an effective way to circumnavigate such discussion is Liverpudlian indie-poppers The Wombats. Quite frankly, the distance between the cheeky trio's best and worst tracks on their debut LP was so immense, that even Deaf Jeff could choose which - and in what order - tunes would be let loose upon the masses. So when killer lead single 'Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)' was released seven months prior to the Scouser's second album 'This Modern Glitch', critics and fans alike, were still tentative in raising their expectations.
Arguably their best song to date, the insanely catchy sing-along chorus and body-moving qualities of 'Tokyo', recalls the superlative dance-rock of Franz Ferdinand & The Killers at their best. Meanwhile, follow-up track and single 'Jump Into the Fog' contains the bombastic attributes of fellow Brits Muse, moving from pronounced atmospheric keys to a distorted guitar solo in a heartbeat. This time around it gets a little more divisive after that, with strings-drenched third single 'Anti-D' and club-ready fourth single 'Techno Fan' certain to have as many haters as they have fans. Both of these cuts are likely to be judged on the trademark wit of their lyrics, with the former pleading "Please allow me to be your anti-depressant, I too am prescribed as freely as any decongestant”, while the latter proclaims "Shutup and move with me or get out of my face, I didn't queue for an hour to leave straight away".
As part of the maturation process of the band, the lyrical content of 'This Modern Glitch' has evolved from the fun, witty and humorous one-liners of 'A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation'. The acerbic pop culture references are still littered throughout, but the self-deprecation clearly has a darker, more serious undertone here. The one-time addiction to prescription anti-depressants of front-man Matthew Murphy is laid bare, and while it clearly assists both his rehabilitation and the band's development, it weakens the curiously likeable charm evident on their debut. As always, for every lyrical gold nugget, there is an awkward, corny rhyme to be heard. 'Last Night I Dreamt...' ends with "Apart from when I lost my virginity, I've never been known to frighten easily", while 'Walking Disasters' serves up "Consumption makes us stronger, you're the sweetest anaconda".
More concerning is the change of musical direction adopted by The Wombats second time around, with 'This Modern Glitch' being a less versatile record than its predecessor. Multiple producers polish their respective tracks up slickly, but the album is so over-reliant on synths, that it could almost be classified as electro-pop. A strong 80s vibe ("We are the 1980s" declares Murphy on 'Techno Fan') only adds to the dime-a-dozen vibe, while the relatively simple song structures mean the band cannot match the multi-layered approach of the genre's heavyweights. This all results in the non-highlights containing some nice keys and decent chorus harmonies, but ultimately not being especially distinctive or memorable. The album also closes poorly, with no amount of clever lyrics able to save the lowest denominator pop of 'Girls/Fast Cars', while the dated indie-posturing curve-ball of 'Schumacher the Champagne' is as predictable as it is out of place.
The Wombats have always been a fun and curious band, so it should come as no surprise that both of their full-length releases have been peculiar affairs. One could easily make an argument that their second LP contains their best song yet, shows greater cohesiveness and contains less awful tracks than their debut. And yet, as a whole, it seems an inferior record... One where the sum of its parts are greater than the whole. Only including ten tracks, 'This Modern Glitch' is as inconsistent as ever, and could actually be hindered by having less bullets to spray around the target. It is in no ways a poor album however, and much like The Killers' 'Hot Fuss', is able to get by purely on its strong standouts. Unfortunately, it does nothing to change the perception that The Wombats are very much a singles band... And it is true that they will release one hell of a 'Best of' compilation one day.
Recommended Tracks: Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), Jump Into the Fog & 1996.