Friday, April 29, 2011

Album Review: The Wombats - The Modern Glitch (4/5)

British rockers The Wombats finally release their follow-up to 2007's debut A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation. I have never really familiarized myself with the band (I enjoyed the muffled melodic rock of their biggest hit so far "Moving to New York" but that's about it) but their sound is very much accessible dance-rock with fetching hooks, almost re-calling the similar joyous rock of Blur, nicely demonstrated on the instant opening track "Our Perfect Disease" which cooks up the perfect recipe for striking alternative rock/pop; laying down heavy drum rhythms, blustery electronic guitars and throbbing synths piercing through the undercurrents. The haunting keyboard solo is a nice touch too.

Aswell as Blur, they also remind me of fellow British indie rock band Bloc Party, particularly "Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves);" constraining guitar and synth melodies, prominent heavy drum backing, layered roaring vocal. A very balmy production with quite a sinister lyrical undertone ("back to that bar in Tokyo where the demons from my past leave me alone"). More restraint is "Jump Into the Fog" which has a nice range of towering sounds; angelic choir humming beneath callous drum beats and hand claps kept at bay by tuneful guitar chords.

Even more restraint is "Anti-D" a dramatic number, aptly spearheaded by heavy orchestratic violins, strings and mellowing guitas before the distorted, warbling, electronic synths kick in. Quickly picking up the tempo, "Last Night I Dreamt..." is drenched with nice guitar melodies, drum rhythms, and faint '80s inspired clobbering dance beats near the beginning--it's a fairly upbeat production however, again, has a dark lyrical undertone ("last night I dreamt I died alone").

Slightly edging away from the standard alternative rock production is the apty titled "Techno Fan" which dips its toes into electro-pop territories: synths, pulsing bass lines and atmospheric soundscapes, all great build up to its energetic, hard-hitting chorus where the overbearing (in a good way of course) electronic guitars and heavy drums come into play--it's a nice contrast.

"1996" is quite good too, although not as much as the others. Very beat heavy and atmoshperic and lyrically, as you would expect, very reminiscent ("we were cloning sheep in the 1990s, we were building telescopes"). The album begins to sag a little towards the end, "Walking Disasters" is good but too repetitive, particularly on the chorus and the production is a little underwhelming and unless I'm completely missing the point doesn't the lame lyrical direction of "Girls / Fast Cars" sound quite out of place here? I mean, who doesn't love girls and fast cars? But it seems like a lyrical misfire.

The album comes to a close with "Schumacher the Champange" which sounds like a nice melodic '90s throwback--heavy synthy-bass lines, tambourines, chugging guitar chords--furthering the aforementioned Blur comparisons. The reviews for The Modern Glitch hasn't been great, NME called the album "a triumph for mediocrity," however I really enjoyed it--I applaud its solidarity, consistency and being cohesive. It's an enjoyable dance-rock record.

Best: Our Perfect Disease, Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), Last Night I Dreamt..., Techno Fan, Jump Into the Fog, Schumacher the Champange

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