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A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation

The Wombats

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Album Review

The growing trend in post-millennial Brit-pop bands seems to favor embracing the style's inherent disposability. Rather than going for a Damon Albarn-like arc of stylistic exploration, more and more U.K. bands are shooting for that one great three-minute pop single that overshadows everything else they will ever do: the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict a Riot," Dogs Die in Hot Cars' "I Love You 'Cause I Have To," the Fratellis' "Flathead," Little Man Tate's "Man, I Hate Your Band," et-bloody-cetera. In the case of the Wombats, the three-minutes pop single in question is "Let's Dance to Joy Division," a genuinely swell bit of tongue in cheek new wave revivalism that's by far the best part of the Liverpool trio's debut album. In the tradition of fellow Scousers the Scaffold or Half Man Half Biscuit, there's a heavy dose of humor to the Wombats, who started out as much an improv comedy/performance art act as they were a pop band. Indeed, the album starts with the nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is doo wop pastiche "Tales of Girls, Boys and Marsupials" before righting itself with the spunky pop-punk of "Kill the Director." Jokey material like the herky-jerky ode to schoolboy crushes "School Uniforms" and the self-consciously smutty tale of unrequited love "Patricia the Stripper" lowers the overall tone. It's not that there's anything wrong with humor in music — Madness, one of the Wombats' most obvious touchstones, wrote some hilarious songs — it's just that the funny songs are neither particularly side-splitting nor particularly tuneful. Songs like "Backfire at the Disco" balance the yuks with catchier melodies and less of a sense that these guys are one step away from putting on moose-antler hats and giant sunglasses. The Wombats may surprise us all and turn out to be a band for the ages (did anyone really think Beck would turn out to be one of the great songwriters of his generation the first time they heard "Loser"?), but the just-for-a-larf vibe of A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation suggests otherwise. [A CD/DVD version was also released.]

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Liverpool, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

British indie rock trio the Wombats make driving guitar post-punk and electronic-influenced pop. Formed in Liverpool in 2003 while the members were all attending the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the Wombats feature vocalist/guitarist Matthew Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis, and Norwegian-born bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen. In 2006, the Wombats released their debut single, the Japan-only "Girls, Boys and Marsupials." Several singles followed before the release of the band's 2007 debut album,...
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A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, The Wombats
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