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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Wombats: "A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation"

I was fortunate enough to have received (and reviewed) a copy of The Wombats' debut EP here in the states back in February.  It didn't take me a long time to fall in love with the band.  I found their witty tales of boy/girl woe to be irresistible, and the short, 5-song album really got me excited for their full length debut.  After only a few months of anxious waiting, it has finally arrived.  Does it live up to my expectations?

Totally.  All of the wit and charm that The Wombats displayed on that EP (not to mention, all of the songs) are still in full force here.  The intro-track "Tales of Girls, Boys & Marsupials" is a playful,  acapella  song that simply repeats its title for a minute or so.  As a "real" song, it doesn't do much.  But as the first song on the album, it does a brilliant job of letting listeners know exactly what they're in for.  It runs head on into what was the EP's strongest track (and it accomplishes the same feat here), "Kill the Director," in which singer Matthew Murphy compares his strange love life with a romantic comedy.  He memorably shouts in the song's bridge, "This is no Bridget Jones!," and I still can't help but shout right along with him.  It's such an awesome song!

That song is followed by two other "old" tracks:  "Moving to New York" and "Lost in the Post."  Both songs are well-written, highly energetic, and incredibly infectious tunes, and it's good to be able to hear them in the context of a full album.  It's not until track 5 that I actually get to listen to some new material, and "Party in the Forest (Where's Laura?)" is just as good as anything I've heard from the band up to this point.  Matthew's vocal melody in the verse drags a little at points (as it does on "Lost in the Post"), but he more than makes up for it in the chorus.  "School Uniforms" is a decent song, but it can be a bit overwhelming on the first listen.  In this frantic, chaotic track, Matthew does make a few witty observations about childhood inadequacies.  My favorite is when he sings, "It all went downhill/ you grew tall/ I stayed the same/ I guess that's just puberty/ making us boys always play a losing game."  

"Here Comes the Anxiety" is the obligatory downer track.  After all, not everyone can be happy all the time, though you think with a song like "Let's Dance to Joy Division" that the opposite would be true.  This song, the one they advertise with a little sticker on the front of the CD packaging, is one of the best "new" tracks on the album.  Matt sings, "Let's dance to Joy Division and celebrate the irony," though I doubt that many people in The Wombats' target audience would understand why that would be ironic, or that they could even name a Joy Division song (even though he alludes to one in the bridge).  Personally, I find "Backfire at the Disco" to be a better dancing song all around, and as the lead-0ff track to their EP, it brings back memories of  the first time I heard the band.
"Little Miss Pipedream" is just as amazing as it was the first time I heard it, though the band has added a lot of electronic flutters and effects to change the sound of the song slightly.  Still, it maintains its self-depreciating charm just fine.  The next two songs, "Dr. Suzanne Mattox PhD" and "Patricia the Stripper" are both pretty forgettable tracks, though one can hardly blame someone for dismissing them when they're sandwiched between "Pipedream" and the album-closer, "My First Wedding."  The latter track is one of The Wombats' best songs, and features everything from loud group vocals to thick, wet synths.  Matthew describes his experience in going to the wedding of a girl with whom he has a past.  He acknowledges that she wasn't right for him, but notes that "She's my heartless bitch that I just can't seem to get enough of!"  Needless to say, a lot of drinking and hijinks ensue.

So once again, I'm blessed with the pleasure of being able to listen to The Wombats, and I have to say that I am once again very pleased with the experience.  To be honest, I was a bit afraid that the band's attitude and style would wear thin on me in large, full-length LP doses.  To my surprise, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation has only left me wanting more.  Though I've only had the album in my possession for a few days, it has already gotten more plays than I care to note.  For the most part, the highlights of this album are the songs that were featured on that EP that I keep bringing up over and over again (sorry 'bout that).  So if you're just looking for a small fix, I totally recommend that you pick that one up.  But if you're a normal person and you're into bands like The Killers or Art Brut, you'd be dumb not to give this one a chance.  The Wombats may not be the most original bands in the world, but they sure are one of the most entertaining!

Key Tracks:
1.  "Kill the Director"
2. "Moving to New York"
3. "Party in a Forest (Where's Laura)"
4. "Backfire at the Disco"
5. "My First Wedding"

7 out of 10 Stars

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