It doesn’t quite feel like it, but the Liverpool-founded indie band the Wombats’ last release was almost three years ago. 2015’s stellar “Glitterbug” brought new emotional highs and a changed electronic sound to the Wombats’ already-strong discography, and last week’s follow-up LP, “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life”, is another forward step.
The Wombats more than ever wear their influences on their sleeve – the Strokes in “I Only Wear Black”, Tame Impala in the first dozen bars of “Out of My Head”, Wolf Alice in the melodic “Ice Cream” – but once again Matthew Murphy’s unpretentious lyrics and unaffected wit, rare in a genre that often takes itself too seriously, add something to those bands’ more experimental releases. The striking cover art calls to mind rebirth albums from the likes of Duran Duran (“Paper Gods”) and Blur (“Magic Whip”) – though I suspect the band won’t love comparisons to bands whose greatest achievements lie in decades past. In truth the Wombats are at the top of their game.
“Turn” might be the strongest song on the album, but it could slide just as easily into the techno-melancholy of “Glitterbug”. For a taste of the Wombats’ new ambitions hear the unrelenting “White Eyes” and the closing symphony “I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do” – another example of Murphy’s characteristic romantic unsubtlety. Then again I’ve got a gut feeling I know what lead single “Lemon to a Knife Fight” is about, and it’s better not said.
I have to admit I feared the Wombats’ February release might get lost in what looks to be a good year for alternative music; Arctic Monkeys, Editors, White Lies, Of Monsters & Men and Florence and the Machine are all tipped for new albums. With “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life”, I’m happy to be proven wrong.