What a very… serious musical age we live in today. Back in the day, The Beatles used to get away with structuring choruses no more complicated than repeating the word “yeah” over and over, or extolling the virtues of grasping a girl’s hand over three glorious pop-filled minutes. They were rewarded with worldwide adulation and the unchallenged consensus that they were amazing – not simply four men who could write a sweet tune about quite fancying someone.
Fast-forward to your average indie club circa 2007 and our staple booty-wigglers seem rather more po-faced than the beloved perma-grinning Scousers originally intended pop music to be. Razorlight, Hard-Fi, The Killers – these are the chief churners of our dancefloor hits and, Jesus, where’s the fun? You’ve drunkenly shuffled to ‘Cash Machine’ but can you honestly spray Stella joyously as Richard Archer spews his ditch-water social commentary about the struggles of living on the Staines breadline? Can you manically groove to ‘America’ while Borrell’s godlier-than-thou global observations retch from his gob? Do you really think Brandon Flowers – a man who sports the kind of moustache only usually spied in the pages of The Chap magazine without a whisker of irony – celebrated recording ‘Mr Brightside’ by chugging back a can of beer, loosening his contraceptive neck tie and moonwalking to the bar for a refill?
If you think this intro is some kind of laboured drum-roll to justify the fact that The Wombats make lobotomy rock about as serious and considered as Jade Goody’s post-Celebrity Big Brother trip to India, you’re wrong. The fact that their frenetic, thumping indie package appears to be gurningly stupid and painted with the kind of lyrics normally found on the inside covers of GCSE notebooks is both a blessing and a curse for the Liverpool-based trio.
First off, it totally ruins what is potentially their best song, ‘Kill The Director’. Full of exhilarating punk-funk derived from Dan ‘The Rat’ Haggis’ octopus-limbed drumming, a chest-burst chorus and plenty of singalong “whoo-oo, whoo-oo”s, the song should be an absolute treat. However, its chorus – “If this is a rom-com, kill the director” with “This is no! Bridget Jones!” repeated to infinity – ensures feet are kept from dancing by the fact that toes are too curled from the cringeworthy lyrics to allow any kind of movement.
‘Moving To New York’, however, is where they get the balance exactly right. It’s a big, dumb, unashamed dancefloor snarer with brush-past-your-ears lyrics about, you guessed it, moving to New York. Unscrew your forehead, check your brain at the cloakroom and there’s serious fun to be had with this one, as many of you can testify first-hand, having witnessed its excellence on their recent tour with The Enemy and Lethal Bizzle.
However, we’re in danger of painting The Wombats as vacuum-headed, if brilliantly fun, lunk-rockers, with nothing more to offer. And, while you won’t catch them posting cryptic codes on their website for fans to decipher just yet, this is a bit unfair. While ‘Kill The Director’ might come across as moronically wasteful, elsewhere there’s a knowing wink to the naffness of it all. In abstraction, ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ seems to be born of shrug-it-off quirkiness. But the order to “celebrate the irony” of writing a song about the morbid pulse-punk forefathers that’s as uplifting as a lunchbox full of Prozac shows enough in-on-the-joke awareness to allow you to enjoy it for what it is: a cracking bluster of a rock song neither weighted by Borrell’s worthiness or Peñate-like mundanity. Elsewhere, the platformed “whoo-oohs” wrapping ‘Lost In The Post’, as well as ‘Kill The Director’ and ‘Party In A Forest (Where’s Laura?)’, threaten to develop into a trademark Wombat sound as distinctive and crowd-pleasing as the Kaiser Chiefs’ “Whoooooooaaaaaah!” A good thing? Damn right!
It’s not all frantic “whoo”-rock mind. Opener ‘Tales Of Girls, Boys And Marsupials’ proves that the band possess ambition beyond the desire to soundtrack your beer-swilling. A screwy a cappella Housemartins-esque hand-clapper, it shows that a) the band really can’t sing and b) they really don’t care. It’s as cuddly as their stuffed Wombat mascot Cherub and great, great fun.
So, there’s more to The Wombats than just knuckle-headed indie-by-numbers. By total accident they seem to have stumbled upon the perfect formula for the indie-rock disco anthem, and for this they should be lauded. We suggest you enjoy The Wombats – because they are sure as hell going to be around for a while yet.