“This is all very MFT,” Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy jokes with his guitar tech as he rummages through a tangle of wires to throttle some onstage gremlin. “that stands for ‘my first tour’…”
Consider – the last time Murph played London it was at Wembley Arena, the triumphant climax of The Wombats’ battle past the snarks and doubters to the top of the arena pop tree. Tonight he resets, back in a 300-capacity club in “my old stomping ground” of Hackney as if immediately starting again from scratch. It’s like The Wombats were a PS4 game he’s completed and now he’s starting a new run with all the skills and upgrades he acquired first time around.
Because, make no mistake, Love Fame Tragedy aren’t built for the nation’s Moth Clubs. Theirs is an expansive, panoramic pop noise that takes all of the arena-filling tricks The Wombats learnt over their 15-year rise and broadens the scope further with freeway piano epics (‘Everything Affects M.N.’), titanium glam (‘Hardcore’) and pure devil disco (‘Multiply’). Of the many on-record guest stars, Murph only introduces Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton onstage tonight, adding ambient R&B washes to the pop typhoon that is ‘Brand New Brain’, but bigger dressing rooms will doubtless bulge with major names and future crowds will face the bewildering prospect of actually enjoying a song being performed, at least in part, by Dan from Bastille. Opener ‘Backflip’ builds to an electro firestorm; ‘Body Parts’ grinds with industrial meat. Already, Love Fame Tragedy sound big.
In such close environs, though, Murph’s trademark confessionals feel particularly pointed and intimate. “I’ve been emotionally offline,” he admits as ‘Backflip’ builds to its electro firestorm crescendo; “I see the cracks in the Mona Lisa,” he sings as part of the glass-half-empty, best-vote-Lib-Dem mentality laid out in ‘Everything Affects M.N.’. He delves deep into his inner emptiness and turmoil on the synthpop ‘Pills’ (“there’s an echo in the place my heart should be”) and garage rock grinder ‘My Cheating Heart’, a diary of undisclosed wild times while living in San Francisco. Followers of the marital upsets he divulged on The Wombats’ last album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ are treated to further insights as Murph informs us his wife is “quite a handful” and sings a one-minute acoustic song about how he hopes she won’t murder him. It’s confession booth stuff in a venue little bigger; expect the hardcore love to turn to mainstream fame in a blink. Hold the tragedy.
PICS: PHIL SMITHIES