It’s a matter of fact that every budding indie fanatic was raised on a saccharine diet of The Wombats; the angst-ridden exuberance that pulsated from their debut album A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation was like a spoonful of sugar that became our Dark Fruits-drunk pop inauguration – a rite of passage, you might say. For this reason, I will always hold a deep-seated affection for The Wombats. In a foolish attempt to capture the zeitgeist, they instead managed to become a part of it. Like any band with such ornamental success, The Wombats are – and will always be – in a precarious position to keep their music pumping through the veins of relevance in the music industry, when they are in conflict with the consensus that they’ve sold out too soon. Their latest album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, according to frontman Matthew Murphy, was an effort to create something “that at least had the chance of being timeless”, and the result is an admirable attempt.
If you revelled in the lo-fi charm of The Wombats up to this point, then perhaps it’s better to put your earphones in, keep to the first album, and pretend that Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life simply never happened. The rough, unpolished edge that once made their music so delicious is nowhere to be seen, left far behind them; this album is markedly refined, the product of careful, rich production. To me, that’s a shame. The magnetism of The Wombats was to be found within their frivolous attitude – they seemed to know their music was daft; that their lyrics were the kind of thing found scrawled dreamily inside a teenage diary – yet all the while, it was fun. It was fucking brilliant.
It would be unfair to say, however, that Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is a non-starter. Through an amalgam of tracks indistinguishable from one another, that are perfectly acceptable to listen to once, but never again, there are a handful of songs that are like smatterings of colour across a rather bland canvas. The Wombats seemed to sharpen their teeth a little in ‘Ice Cream’; the infectious, fast-paced instrumental that is their differentia is weighted down with a heavy chorus and stooping, dynamic guitarwork that seems to carry the theatrics of pop-punk proportions. It’s something a little different for The Wombats, and this genre hybrid is so infectious to listen to.
‘Lethal Combination’, the short-burst on the album, deserves the merit of being the most memorable, chant-worthy song on it. The pulse of dynamic, commanding drum beats punctuates a jaunting rhythm that has those beloved flashbacks to that drunken, stupid happiness that The Wombats elicited so effortlessly in their previous albums.
I have to say, the pre-released tracks on Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life aren’t the most remarkable on the album – with the exception of ‘Turn’. I adore this song. Both lyrically and instrumentally it carries a certain sense of emotion that isn’t meek and fragile, but instead potent and impactful, carrying an incredible gravitas due to its hard-hitting chorus and versatile vocals. ‘Turn’ has echoes of Glitterbug (2015), in its sophistication and nuances.
The Wombats are perhaps unfairly criticised. Disparaged by the unforgiving moniker of ‘landfill indie’ that became synonymous with a trashy inundation of same-old indie bands after the success of The Strokes, their integrity as a band has been thrown into doubt despite their consistent, unwavering success and support. I won’t hear anyone say otherwise: The Wombats were, and remain to be, a brilliant band. They’re good at what they do, and I feel like this album is not a disservice to that. However, let it be said that though there were tracks that bore flashes of brilliance that made the 3-year hiatus worth it, I was still left a little cold. I’m sorry to say it, Matthew, but Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life won’t be the timeless album it was conceived to become.
Nevertheless, for the now, it is a testament to the consistent eloquence and uncompromising quality of a band who are still adept, relevant, and as ever, adored.