After young policemen and confusing phones, there’s now a new metric by which to measure how much the modern world has passed you by: still finding yourself surprised that The Wombats are so big.
Anyone with a passing interest in streaming playlists knew that the ubiquitousness of 2015’s ‘Greek Tragedy’ – 175 million Spotify streams and counting – would quietly turn the Liverpudlian trio into an arena band (they play the London’s O2 Arena in April). Why? Because they’ve masterfully embraced the rise of ‘alternative pop’ – that mildly sweary edge of the mainstream – without shedding their melodic panache or their wry, often self-eviscerating indie-rock attitude.
Fifth album ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ marks a further shift. Like Coldplay before them, they’ve reached a level where touches of EDM, R&B and chart electronica are no longer outside their wheelhouse. And, crucially, they deploy them with delicacy and restraint, with one eye always trained on the sources of their sound: Talking Heads, The Cure, LCD Soundsystem and New Order.
Three pre-release singles signposted the album’s modernist breadth. The uncharacteristically slouch-paced ‘Method To The Madness’ crackles like antique vinyl, imagining an R&B song that Portishead might have written in 1952, before building a crescendo of pounding synth-rock. Pop anthem ‘If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You’ sounds like a fantasy co-write between The Strokes and Charli XCX. ‘Ready For The High’ barely sits still for a verse at a time, ducking between buzz-rock, falsetto funk and bits that seem written for the first dance at the marriage of MGMT and Jungle.
The rest of the album further delivers: confident funk pop (‘Wildfire’, ‘Worry’) and inventive future disco (‘This Car Drives All By Itself’, ‘People Don’t Change People, Time Does’) are staples, but the palette is wide here, the brushstrokes bold. Opener ‘Flip Me Upside Down’ captures LCD’s itchy funk-punk sparseness, while semi-title track ‘Fix Yourself, Then The World (Reach Beyond Your Fingers)’ is a 90-second teaser of ambient psych that you wish they’d let balloon into a showstopper. And ‘Work Is Easy, Life Is Hard’ attacks the pointlessness of social media discourse with the tech-rock gleam of Garbage or prime Nine Inch Nails.
‘Fix Yourself…’ is the first indie release of 2022 that might weigh into Ed Sheeran and Adele’s mud fight at the top of the album charts, and it might not even be long before The Wombats are headlining major festivals. Don’t look so surprised.
Release date: January 14
Record label: AWAL