While The Wombats, who got their start in Liverpool, have absorbed British pop and indie rock influences from across the last 5 or 6 decades, the trio’s brand of clever power-pop suggests a cosmic connection to acts as diverse at Big Star, Material Issue, and The Fountains of Wayne, with hints of the dark humor of the likes of Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. They kick-off their fifth studio album, “Fix Yourself, Not the World,” with a fun bassline that settles into a fun, fast, pop melody set to a relentless dance beat, with a big chorus of how a person’s presence can “Flip Me Upside Down,” describing a confident poseur can lose composure: “you walked into the room and my tongue gets tied.” Yet the album’s first single, “Method to the Madness,” starts at the other end of the sonic spectrum, slow beats that describes a honeymoon travelogue trapped by “tourist traps and museum food” – with Gaudi’s cathedral, Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona inspiring the album’s cover art – until the realization that you don’t have to follow the guide books, you can “build it my own way,” as the decisive mantra grows into a full blown rant.
But the strongest example of clever word-play shows up in another pre-release single, the catchy “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You,” with this fun couplet: “I’ll do whatever you want me to/Throw a banquet in a moshpit/I’ll get out of be, stop listening to Radiohead/Take you out of this, your reluctant optimist.” And again, it’s set to a very memorable melodic hook. “Ready for the High,” driven by a grungy rhythm guitar, before it settles into the bright, accessible vocals, with a fun horn section introduced for the instrumental break. For the darker ruminations of “Everything I Love Is Going to Die,” they push off with an up-tempo 80’s new wave feel that hints at the shiny, happy pop of ABC, and the floaty dance instrumentals of Flock of Seagulls, and a reference to “a crazy, pranged out year/And we spent most of it kissing teeth/Locked in quarantine.”
Start to finish, this twelve track album progresses like a large creative whole, something that defies the fact that it was recorded largely via a Zoom, with vocalist and guitarist Matthew Murphy in a studio in L.A., where he currently lives with his wife and family, with bassist Tord Overland Knudsen and drummer Dan Haggis in a studio in London, after their initial songwriting sessions together in Murphy’s home studio before the pandemic kicked everyone to their corners. The band captures the common concerns of everyday people with words of wisdom in songs like “Work Is Easy, Life Is Hard,” “People Don’t Change People, Time Does,” “Don’t Poke the Bear,” and “Worry,” where the protagonist worries about everything, even that they might worry too much, offer the assurance that “it’s not paranoia if it’s really there.”
The Fire Note got the chance to check out The Wombats live when the band opened the co-headline tour of The Pixies and Weezer in the summer of 2018, and they played a set of resilient power-pop that turned the few hundreds of us that arrived early into fans. With “Fix Yourself, Then the World,” the trio more than delivers on the promise we experienced in their live show, playing killer versions of “Greek Tragedy” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.”
Key Tracks: “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” / “Flip Me Upside Down” / “Ready For the High”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Fratellis / Arctic Monkeys / Material Issue