The Wombats bring brilliant deja vu to Reading 2019

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The Liverpudlian future pop heroes played almost exactly the same set here this time last year...

Friday, early evening; the square-jawed wombat on the back-of-stage screen wakes up as the first crunching future beats of ‘Cheetah Tongue’ and The Wombats storm Richfield Avenue intent on silencing the ‘landfill critics’ and proving their worth as top-end main stage prospects. All industrial pop de(con)struction and whoomps that sound like sci-fi fusion drives powering down, it’s a bravado statement of the world’s unlikeliest arena band’s position at the forefront of modern alt-pop, and following it with ‘Moving To New York’ is a cheeky nod to their…

Hang on, are you getting déjà vu too? Didn’t The Wombats do exactly the same thing, at almost exactly the same time, at Reading 2018? Now that the side-of-stage screens at Reading wrap around like an iPhone X screen, those of us on a tad too much nitrous might think someone’s accidentally pressed replay on last year’s festival.

The Wombats live at Reading Festival 2019

To be fair, The Wombats are the sort of tongue-in-cheek band that might come on and play exactly the same set, right down to the between-song banter, as a kind of post-modernist art prank, but the chances are they just felt the point – that they’re a far bigger deal to contemporary audiences than their rep as noughties survivors with a cheesy song about Joy Division might suggest – needed hammering home. So they’re back again, mingling the indie club bangers of 2008 with the most gleaming future pop textures, proving themselves both retro and relevant.

The Wombats Reading Festival 2019

So ‘Give Me A Try’, from 2015’s ‘Glitterbug’, is hard-rocking synthetic age space funk, lifted upon gorgeous LA upswings, and ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’, from last year’s ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’, is a futuristic American folk gothic, simultaneously light and dark to the point where it can only be illustrated by visuals of cartoon lemons bouncing down the Lost Highway. And Reading’s classic indie fix is more than sated by disco titan ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’, the parade of cheerleading wombats dancing across the stage to ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ and a typically euphoric ‘Techno Fan’, which even gets Mr Blobby crowd-surfing.

If their longevity confuses you, it’s because you’re the wrong side of a cultural divide. Closer ‘Greek Tragedy’ is one of the ultimate Spotify-era stealth hits, a song that’s crept its way to classic status on streaming playlists, below the radar, until they can legitimately get a bloke in a wombat costume to play the squealing climactic solo and get piggy-backed off by singer Murph. Or maybe you refuse to accept that, in some cases, fun never goes out of fashion.