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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Wombats: "The Wombats" EP

Unless you're from the U.K. (which I know at least a few of you are), you've probably never heard of The Wombats.  In just a few years, this Liverpool trio have gone from local crowd-pleasers to the "next big thing."  With two import-only albums already under their belt, The Wombats are prepped and ready to invade the U.S. with a few dates scheduled in March of 2008.  This 6-song EP won't be available to the general public until April 8th, but in anticipation of their arrival to our side of the pond, I've decided to review this one a bit early so that the proper "heads up" is given.

In listening to the first track on The Wombats, "Backfire at the Disco," I was immediately captivated by the energy that this band brings.  Their sound reminds me a lot of Art Brut, albeit a less talky version of Art Brut.  In this indie pop/punk gem, vocalist Matthew Murray reminisces on the unfortunate happenings that occur on a particular night on the town.  He catchily sings, "It backfired at the disco, she she slapped me at the disco."  He later reveals the cause of his misfortune, noting, "It was a chat-up line built not to impress, more a sleazy remark on her whorish dress."  It's quite the humorous number, and with a steadily rockin' tempo, sing-a-long melodies, tight instrumentation, and brilliant background vocals, it's hard not to imagine this one playing at your local disco.  A definite crowd-pleaser.

First single (I believe), "Kill the Director" is just as infectious, if not more so.  Again, Murray's lyrics are quite humorous.  The song is about his inability to speak to a girl who "makes me feel seasick," brushing off the song, saying, "Here's another song about a gender I'll never understand."  In the unforgettable chorus, he pleads, "If this is a rom-com, kill the director!"  Again relying on a very punk rock style, the band excels in crafting an unbelievably catchy, danceable song.  So catchy, in fact, that you're sure to find yourself shouting out "This is no Bridget Jones!" with the band, whether its in the privacy of your own home or at one of their shows.  It is an inevitable occurrence, so make the necessary preparations prior to listening to this one.

"Moving to New York" changes the vibe a little bit, this time opting for a more traditional indie rock sound.  However, it's no less enjoyable because of it.  The lyrics also take on a more sober role this time around.  Murray recalls a horrible week and then plots a move to New York to start anew.  It's got a pretty cool guitar riff, and it's not a bad song at all.  "Little Miss Pipedream" is the EP's first "ballad."  Here, Murray sings about the oh-so-relatable  pipe dream of a girl.  He begins the song by singing, "I think the postman intercepts everything I try and send to you and I can't say I blame him because I'd cheat a priest just to get to you."  He spends his time pondering about her days and excusing her flaws, wailing "I don't mind that she gets hammered and goes home with other guys."  His voice tells a different story, however, and the sadness in realizing that his pipe dream is just that rings through all the silly lyrics.  It's strange how something can be fun, yet still maintain its poignancy.  This song does a brilliant job of achieving such a thing, and I'm fully impressed by its ability to do so.

The EP's final "real" song is "Lost in the Post," yet another song about Murray's numerous inadequacies in the dating world.  While the topic has been touched on on numerous occasions thus far, it seems to be what he's most capable of writing of, and each song has its own unique spin on the theme, so disappointment is rare.  He once again manages to deliver one of the funnier lines I've heard in a while in, "She wanted Mary Poppins and I took her to King Lear."  Ummm....there's a pretty big difference there, but I get it.  I hate Mary Poppins too, and King Lear is awesome!  The EP's last track is a CSS-remixed version of "Kill the Director" which doesn't manage to capture any of the raw energy that the original had, instead replacing it with plastic  electronics.  Skip it.

The Wombats will be playing 3 dates at SXSW this year, so if you're going to the festival I highly recommend swinging by and checking them out.  The band is an inarguably talented group of guys that are armed with an inexhaustible wit and infectious punk songs.  I can't wait to hear more from them!  Fortunately, I won't have to wait for too long; their debut album here in the States is due out later this year!

Key Tracks:
1. "Backfire at the Disco"
2. "Kill the Director"
3. "Little Miss Pipedream"

8 out of 10 Stars

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