There’s a fine line between “indie pop” and “pop indie”, and British trio The Wombats have found a way to steadily toe that line throughout their career. Their previous two full length efforts, A Guide To Love, Loss, And Desperation and This Modern Glitch (each with “The Wombats Proudly Present…” quirkily inserted at the beginning of the title) had their standout moments, but were filled the rest of the way with boring, run-of-the-mill songwriting and half-baked lyricism. Despite this, on the verge of releasing their third LP Glitterbug, the group seemed to be set on moving forward. More “mature” looking album art, heavier reliance on electronic elements, and serious lyrical themes scattered throughout the first few singles indicated that the band were likely doing their best not to be thought of as completely stagnant and one-dimensional.
However, just like the two records before it, Glitterbug proves that The Wombats just can’t seem to escape their trend-following nature. As much as A Guide borrowed from 2000’s indie rock mainstays like The Strokes and The Vines, the group’s third effort pretty much sounds like a Brit-tinged clone of currently “trending” artists like Walk The Moon and Grouplove. Of course, This Modern Glitch served as a bit of a transitional period between the two, however, it’s obvious that the leap made on Glitterbug is the most drastic one the band has made so far. The simple, clean electric guitars that populated their early work are gone, and gigantic synth riffs and electronic textures take up most of the instrumental foreground.
One thing The Wombats still have going for them, though, is their hook-writing ability. Granted, Glitterbug falls victim to the aforementioned phenomenon of only being catchy and interesting through a small fraction of its run-time, but the sing-along chorus of “Give Me A Try” and the steadily swinging groove of “Headspace” are not to be taken lightly. Small, shining moments like these give the LP some life, but the plodding, drawn-out deep cuts are bound to leave everyone but hardcore Wombats fans with a bad taste in their mouths.
Lyrically, there’s really not much to work with here. Vocalist Matthew Murphy seems to be revisiting the same topics in the same ways over and over again, addressing things like sex, relationships, and depression in ways that have already been done a thousand times over. The lyrical content of the record is obviously taking a backseat to hooks and melodies anyways, but the fact that Murphy doesn’t seem to be trying very hard just assures the listener that as a band, The Wombats aren’t putting a lot of value on being artistic anywhere on this record.
After listening to Glitterbug a few times, it’s pretty clear that The Wombats of old never really left, they’ve just been given a fresh coat of paint. As always, the group seems to be trying too hard to fit in, instead of putting their energy towards writing meaningful and well-rounded songs. If you’re into what’s being played on alt-rock radio these days, you’ll probably get a slight kick out of it, but it’s really nothing too special.