PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Wombats: This Modern Glitch

Simultaneously po-faced and frivolous, the Wombats' second album is a rather forced attempt at glossy indie-dance hybridization.


The Wombats

This Modern Glitch

Label: Bright Antenna
US Release Date: 2011-04-26
UK Release Date: 2011-04-25
Amazon
iTunes

Britain's Wombats are throwing a dance party, and desperately want you to join in the festivities. Despite its frequently-mopey lyrics, the trio’s second album This Modern Glitch is a bright, shiny thing, a reflection of the group’s newfound fascination with synths as well as the sonic manifestation of the sheer existential joy of being in an upwardly-mobile rock ensemble. Transparently crafted as the soundtrack to some endless indie disco night, This Modern Glitch is undoubtedly a good time record.

Trouble is, this vibe comes off as rather forced. This Modern Glitch exudes an oppressively artificial air all over due to its overglossed production, the sort generally reserved for today’s mainstream dance-pop. As the album instantly hits you with an overcompressed diamond-hard wall of sound buttressed by body-shaking, blown-out bass and piercing treble, you can practically hear the recording costs being punched into a calculator. Subtle, this record is not.

Whatever you think of contemporary commercial dance music, it’s clear regardless that the production techniques utilized on This Modern Glitch are ill-suited to the Liverpool-based indie rockers. Instead of being a magical combination of the best of both worlds as the band intends (the sort mastered by alternative dance predecessors Primal Scream and its ilk), the music’s rigid angularity as typified by opening salvo “Our Perfect Disease” is more comparable to bad Bloc Party, except with more shouting. The only dancing suited to accompany this record is self-conscious indie-kid robotic jerks and bouncing. What the Wombats have engaged in is an academic attempt to craft dance-informed rock music, one that ticks the proper boxes on a conceptual level without actually being practical. Furthermore, the group doesn’t utilize its wares in the best manner, as efforts to add variety to its arrangements end up being overly fussy and cluttered.

Divorced from the polished production and jacked-up volume, the songs themselves are slight and unremarkable, with melodies that are too often wiped from the memory once the next track starts. Singing ‘Bat Matthew Murphy does his damnedest to distinguish the group’s compositions with euphoric vocal melodies that manage to lift cuts such as “Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)” and “Walking Disasters” above their humdrum natures. His lyrics, however, suggest that the celebratory music is intended to exalt the virtues of introverted miserablism and defeatism, questionable causes both. For instance, the blatantly anthemic “Last Night I Dreamt . . .” makes visions of dying alone sound like a triumph, while “1996” -- featuring an annoying siren hook and drums straight out of the Human League’s “Human” -- presents nostalgic yearning for those bygone “teenage kicks” as a fantastic way to spend time. Murphy’s words cast This Modern Glitch as a feel-good justification for fans to indulge in insular self-absorption, which can be extremely off-putting to anyone who doesn’t believe listless 20-something indie folk to be the center of the universe. Even if you are partial to the ‘Bats charms, the album’s combination of misanthrope lyrics and party-hearty exhilaration will seem jarringly incongruous, even moreso than on the band’s 2007 hit “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”.

This Modern Glitch isn’t a bad album per se -- the only outright horrendous thing to be found is the tacked-on closer “Schumacher the Champagne’s” farting synth shuffle beat. However, the album is one that doesn’t hit the mark. It fails in the execution of its most basic concept, it manages to be simultaneously po-faced and frivolous, and its tracks never quite make it into the above-average rank. The Wombats may have had a ball making this record, but their heavy-handed efforts to spread the joy to everyone else via the overapplied production aren’t justified by the content.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.