Each week, we’ll take a retrospective look on albums which we think are either criminally underrated or woefully overrated, and why they actually rock/suck.
The year is 2011 on a barren landscape known by many as Earth. The indie rock scene has become a desolate wasteland filled with grotesque creatures who still think it’s 1994, or worse… 2008. Denizens must adapt or die a slow, obscure death. Out of this nightmarish scene however, battle-scarred and weary, emerges the pluckiest of creatures. That creature is a Wombat. Three of them in fact, armed with their brilliant second album This Modern Glitch.
Cast off by many as indie-disco stalwarts and nothing else, this new wave-indebted sugar rush of an album shocked me as much as anyone else. It was the perfect ruse: pretend you’re shit then reveal that you’re actually quite good. Songs like ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’ and ‘Our Perfect Disease’ shamelessly drop almost all guitars and revel in the joys of synths – and what joys they are. Unabashedly catchy with actual emotional substance behind the music, they could have come straight from the eighties if not for singer/guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Murphy’s genuinely modern sense of humour. And every time the sugar buzz is about to get too much they hit you with a savoury sucker punch, like in the plaintive and string-laden ‘Anti-D’ or the muscle-flexing stomp at the end of ‘Schumacher the Champagne’, with Murphy demanding ‘take me as I am, or not at all’. The difference now is that he’s actually to be believed.
Between their first album and this one, the band switched from ‘too cool to care’ sixth-form cynicism to a full celebration of that joyfully awkward period of everyone’s lives. Songs like ‘Techno Fan’ and ‘1996’ describe how ‘sugar filled the whole of my body as I urged it on to grow’ behind slick keyboard riffs that, most amazingly of all, still feel human. Think ‘Teenage Kicks‘ with keyboards.
Granted I was in the archetypal ‘awkward teen’ stage when the album was released in 2011, but that doesn’t explain why the album still resonates as far more than a phase five years on. Maybe teenage dreams really are that hard to beat…