20 Questions: The Wombats

David Tennant's a fan. They, meanwhile, are apprently big (big) fans of Patrick Stewart. In short, meet the Wombats: one of the smartest, funniest, poppiest bands out there today ...

The Wombats

This Modern Glitch

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

In the UK, you know you've "made it" when Doctor Who considers you one of his favorite bands.

Yet for the Liverpool-bred Wombats, being pumped through the TARDIS speakers is only one part of their journey. Made up of frontman Matthew Murphy, Dan Haggis, and Tord Øverland-Knudsen, the group has been gradually building a following that has become wildly devout, in part due to the group's ridiculous ways of messing with a pop hook, and also because of Murphy's utterly astonishing lyricism, often laying his feelings bare in relatable/wildly humorous settings. The most sizable hit from their first album, for example, was called "Let's Dance to Joy Division", the chorus following a shouting of the title with the line "and celebrate the irony". The group is well known for their sense of humor, but when you get right down to it, their self-awareness is something to behold in and of itself: this band is completely aware of their place and surroundings, which is exactly why they are more than up for having fun with what they do.

This is more evident than on This Modern Glitch, which has a far more synth-oriented approach than their guitar-centric debut. Yet even with a slight change in instrumentation, the band's sound is even more immediate than what they've done before, the album dripping with radio-friendly hooks and a gloriously self-mocking sense of what hedonism is in this day and age. Maybe their all-star roster of producers (Jacknife Lee, Butch Walker, etc.) had something to do with it. Or maybe the band has taken their initial burst of post-collegiate wit and unstoppable energy to new levels, making This Modern Glitch, in this writer's opinion, one of the best albums of 2011 thus far.

Prior to doing a brief run of shows in the middle of summer here in the States, "Murph" took some time out of his day to answer PopMatters' famed 20 Questions, here noting how he's often compared to Droopy the Dog, extols the virtues of "Wichita Lineman", and reveals an obsession with none other than Sir Patrick Stewart ...

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I'll come clean with you, I did shed a tear in the new Harry Potter film. It was the section where Dobby says farewell to Harry and passes away. I'm not sure if it was the wonderfully earnest scene that made me emotive, or the raging hangover.


2. The fictional character most like you?

I have often been compared to Droopy the Dog, I guess its something to do with my sunken eyes, understated enthusiasm and general inner misery. Let it be known, this bares no reflection on my manhood.


3. The greatest album, ever?

Erm... Nick Drake's Pink Moon? Elliott Smith's Either/Or? The Beatles' Revolver? Radiohead's Kid A? The Wombats' This Modern Glitch? I honestly have no idea.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Believe it or not, I have never actually watched a Star Trek or Star Wars film so I am in no position to comment. However I do have a bit of a man-crush on Patrick Stewart. He makes me feel safe, comfortable and slightly aroused. He seems almost Fatherly in my eyes. This is getting weird.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen performing Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in London's West End.


6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I know this is obvious and I can practically hear the sighs already, but it would have to be our new album. I have never pushed myself that hard before. Everyday for almost two years all I thought about was songs, how can we improve on our last one, why does this part work and that part doesn't, where is the next song coming from? It was one hell of a learning curve and I'm pretty certain I've come out of it a much stronger, better adjusted, slightly less miserable, dog.


7. You want to be remembered for...?

I think I would like to be remembered for my honesty, its something that I have always put a high premium on. I fully understand the argument that suggests certain Wombat's songs are too personal and self aware, and when I think about it, occasionally I might concur. But I don't feel like I have any choice, I couldn't write an ambiguous lyric if I tried.


8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Sir Patrick Stewart, Lee Westwood, and Ghandi. And only them! And in that order!

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

"Wichita Lineman" -- Jimmy Webb (performed by Glen Campbell). If someone put a gun to my head, I would have to say this was my favourite song of all time. If someone put a nuclear missile to my head I would have to say that "And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time" is the greatest lyric ever written.  


10. Your hidden talents...?

I am a keen golfer with a handicap of 5 (this is not a joke). I think that's about it for my hidden talents section unfortunately. I can write songs, I can play golf, I'm pretty terrible at everything else.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

"Please Sir, do not throw that Banjo off the balcony" -- Hotel Receptionist, Ramada Hotel, Austin TX

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I've only ever stolen chocolate bars when I was 12 and everything I borrow I eventually lose, so the greatest thing I have ever bought would have to be my Mizuno mp62 bladed irons. They're not the most forgiving clubs but I've got a 7.5 tour rifle shaft and some turquoise lambkin grips with two thickening wraps at the bottom. When you catch the sweetspot it is the purest strike in the world.


13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Neither. I own a lovely Dior suit but unfortunately my bank balance will not accommodate a wardrobe full of Dior at the moment.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Sir Patrick Stewart. I wouldn't sit opposite him though. I would sit next to him, hold his hand and occasionally go in for some life affirming hugs. Sorry. If I'm honest it would be Elliott Smith (RIP). I'm slightly obsessed with his music and would love to pick his brains over a bottle of red wine.


15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Groove in the Moo Sydney show, three weeks ago. Had an amazing time. It was our first headline festival show, the stars and the moon were out to play and the crowd was insane. Literally, people climbed on top of the VIP tent and cut some ill shapes.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Golf. Golf and alcohol.


17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

I'm certainly a major fan of smoking, but I need to stop, I keep procrastinating and moving the concept to the further most reaches of my brain. So I'm pretty sure nicotine patches or whatever prescription drug I am hammering to help me quit will soon become essential to my life. As for now though, lets go with Hummus. I can't get enough of it.


18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I'm definitely a city boy, I love the buzz, and how manic it can be living in a place like London. I'm much more relaxed and I sleep better when city noise is surrounding me. I have no idea where I'll end up in the future, although I must admit I have fallen in love with Australia. Especially Sydney and Melbourne, I'm definitely going to spend a few months there at some point. Our tour manager did, and she won't shut up about it. I love the countryside too but could never live there, the peacefulness would drive me crazy.


19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Why are you not Patrick Stewart?


20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Apart from mastering "the eternal struggle", we are in the middle of a pretty heavy touring schedule. In Paris at the moment, its dark, very quiet, and our sound engineer is playing an acoustic guitar in the dressing room. Very badly.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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