Liverpool's fab three don't care what you think, they just want to have some good, harmless fun. Academy, Manchester, Tuesday, February 24
The modern-day usage of the word ‘wacky’ has been rendered impotent. Even if something is deserving of the description, it’s automatically stripped of all credibility and drowned in irony as soon as its ‘wackiness’ is brought into play; the very same as if you used ‘hip’, ‘spiffing’ or communicated through interpretive dance. And yet it’s still a word commonly seen in the same sentence as The Wombats, a band who polarise opinion to an almost violent degree for that same wacky reason.
Ask the cynical side of the fence (where they’re probably playing Radiohead on full-blast) and their opinion is clear: their arsenal of animal costumes, onstage mascots and jingle-jangle pop-songs about being slapped at discos is nothing more than a blatant display of brainless radio buggery. It’s contrived ‘wackiness’ masquerading under quirky indie-pop, and they must be destroyed (the last bit applying to only the most extreme cynics).
But then The Wombats don’t make music that is meant to appeal to those who would sneer at them with pretension, nor, as singer Murph reiterates to NME before going onstage, do they particularly care. “The love/hate aspect is perfect,” he says. “I’d rather be loved and hated rather than just swimming through, it’s more exciting. We want to be credible, but we don’t care what people think. We want to make the music we want to make.”Where the love’s coming from is plain from a trip to the bar. Usually fortified by rows of ID-carrying drinkers, tonight it remains desolate as an army of foetus-faced fans walk straight past it, each one more hyperactive than the last. It’s this excitement that makes opening act Le Corps Mince De Françoise a treat. This Finnish all-girl trio’s stylish synth-disco, yelled full-pelt from a walking advert for Ritalin, commands the pumped-up crowd from the start.
On next are Two Door Cinema Club, who offer catchy little indie numbers – especially single ‘Something Good Can Work’ – but could potentially veer towards underwhelming if the crowd weren’t so fuelled by anticipation. Bafflingly for Golden Silvers, however, despite their flawless performance tonight, the enthusiasm has worn thin. Opening with ‘True No 9 Blues (True Romance)’, a stand-out song from their forthcoming album, they plod through a short set and are greeted with lukewarm applause. Even closer ‘Arrows Of Eros’, which is tight and urgent, provokes mere patters of appreciation.
And as the headliners’ stage is set up and the crowd embrace the playing of Take That’s ‘Patience’ as if it was a generation-defining anthem, it’s hard not to be astounded – and a little bit cynical – by how successfully The Wombats have etched themselves into the mainstream consciousness, yet that’s nothing compared to when the scamps actually get onstage. Even before they play a note they’re swamped with adoration. Tsunamis of cheers and screams engulf the stage until opener ‘Party In A Forest (Where’s Laura?)’ simply rips the place to shreds.
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‘Patricia The Stripper’ follows similar suit but in a more orderly fashion, ‘Kill The Director’ goes off like a detonation and by the point of ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ the adulation is so intense Murph could probably pass wind into a mic for the rest of the night and walk off to rapturous applause. Nevertheless, the chaos temporarily dies down for new second album song ‘Reynolds Park’. Obviously, it can’t be expected to be received like a track off the debut this crowd has consumed every second of, but still seems rather underwhelming. Better though is ‘Love Miss Sally Bray’, which sounds more promising and hookier.
Whatever your thoughts, you can’t fault the simplicity of The Wombats’ live experience. While the songs may tick some of the boxes of so-called landfill-indie, tracks such as ‘Moving To New York’, crafted with singalong finales, serve the purpose they were designed for well: to be shouted back at them by those who love to, er, shout stuff back.