Wombat Style Shines on in “Glitterbug”

With six successful albums and several additional singles, The Wombats have fully established themselves in the indie-rock scene. Formed in 2003, the three-man group has developed its sound with the talents of Matthew Murphy on guitar and vocals, Tord Øverland Knudsen on bass and Dan Haggis on drums. Their latest album, Glitterbug, pulls evocative lyrics and unique vocal and musical style together to form 13 tracks that shine.

In classic Wombat style, even the track titles are outside-the-box, including “Greek Tragedy,” “Be Your Shadow” and “Sex and Question Marks.” “Be Your Shadow” maintains lyrics that rub against the grain of the quick beat and guitar line with lines like “Kiss me with your fist it’s all right/Wrap your hands around my throat I won’t mind.” The album is filled with paradoxes like “Be Your Shadow;” beats that beg dancing with lyrics that taken out context could be poetry or a suicide note. Many of the songs could use more than one listen to fully comprehend the lyrical nuances.  

“Isabel” breaks the paradoxical trend and matches its musical style to the depressed lyrics. The almost acoustic vocal style pairs with an ethereal score and group vocals. It is reminiscent of a music video of a teen staring forlornly out the window while rain pours outside. Despite its differences from the rest of the album “Isabel” maintains the Wombat style in its double edged meaning. Initially, the song runs parallel to standard recent breakup songs. Fortunately, they cut through that haze to make listeners question what exactly Isabel means, who she is, and why the singer needs her so much. A risky move, but it pays off for the Wombats and results in a worthwhile track to listen to.

The standout song on the album is a bonus track called “Flowerball.” Beneath the vocals, everything sounds like it’s slipping through radio static, fuzzy, but bright and upbeat. It is a song for the end of summer, lamenting things that were not accomplished but celebrating the overall joy that came with what was. With lyrics like “You’re my work of modern art/ And I want more,” the song is the best note to end the album on.

Though the Wombats have a distinct sound, it becomes a bit tired when every beat is the same. Glitterbug proved that, as it found 11 different ways to use the same pulsing, dance-step beat and up-tempo speak-singing that happens in most indie rock albums. What redeemed the reuse of the beat were the guitar lines, but even those shadowed each other in style if not in note. Somehow, they have also figured out how to use their somewhat electronic filter to make their vocals sound different for each song. While the overall pitch remains the same, the tone of the songs’ background vocals swing from hard rock in “Your Body is a Weapon” to top 40 in “This Is Not A Party.”

The Wombats’ Glitterbug brings together the electronic sound of Awolnation and the lyrical style of Bastille to make a sound that finds levity in even the most depressing words. Claims that the album is a bit repetitive would not go unfounded, but the overall impression it leaves resonates. The sheer creativity the group has shown in using the same style 13 different ways makes the album interesting and certainly worth a listen on Spotify.

Photo is the copyrighted album cover of “Glitterbug” by the Wombats. 

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