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Album Review: The Wombats – Fix Yourself, Not the World

Fix yourself, not the world, the upcoming fifth studio album from The Wombats, was, like many other recent records, created during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the challenges this brought, the group had to deal with none of its members being in the same country. This makes the end result even more impressive. Despite being a hugely successful band, The Wombats have not been spared having to work over Zoom with recordings made in daily sessions with Matthew Murphy in Los Angeles, Tord Øverland Knudsen in Oslo and Dan Haggis in London. Despite this, the album is cohesive and its wide variety of sounds reflects the distance between its creators. After nearly 20 years together, the Wombats have an established and beloved sound and style that combines indie-rock with elements of dance and techno along with engaging, everyday lyrics. Fix yourself, not the world once again shows and expands on it to create a classic sounding recording of the Wombats that gives the listener all the enjoyment that has always been found in their music. It’s infectious and energetic, but also personal and sometimes subtle. The title of the album seems well chosen both musically and lyrically it is sometimes melancholic but with a feeling of carefree pleasure.

The opening track ‘Flip Me Upside Down’ eagerly kicks off the record. It’s dynamic and excitable floating between its bouncy, bass-driven verses, to the sweet pre-chorus, and its snappy, chaotic chorus. A great introduction to the album and the band’s sound, the song is a quick barrage of catchy vocal melodies, charming lyrics and generally cheerful energy.

The single “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” is an archetypal Wombats track that showcases their ability to craft songs that have a comfortable familiarity and capture the best elements of their sound without sounding outdated. Its rhythmic, layered electronic sound and lyrics like “I’m gonna get out of bed, stop listening to Radiohead” recall hits from their previous albums, including “Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)” and “Moving To New York”. Likewise, the textbook “Everything I Love Is Going to Die” also uses warm guitar chords and a very prominent bass, especially in the verses, which are other elements synonymous with the band. The track also shows the emotional complexity of their work where often sad subject matter is paired with joyful sounding instrumentals. The recognizable sound that the Wombats have created has led to their establishment as one of the most beloved and successful British bands of the past decade. They are clearly comfortable within the loose confines of their style but are still very creative within them, and sometimes outside of them.

They are clearly comfortable within the loose confines of their style […] and sometimes outside of them

The heavy, nearly overdriven guitar and bass sections of “Ready For The High” contrast sharply with the relaxed chorus and a horn-dominated bridge. The wide sample of moods, instruments and effects on the track seem to fit together despite being very different, showing the band’s ability to seamlessly blend a variety of musical elements. Murphy’s falsetto voice during the verses shows off his impressive singing ability and further expands the sound.

The fifth track “Method To The Madness” sits between two of the most upbeat and fun songs on the album. The band’s sometimes darker and more despondent lyrical subject matter is handled by its sadder and more subdued sound, which makes the track play an interesting role in the mostly energetic and joyful overall listening experience. The sound of synths, guitar and bass have been removed, reflecting the general atmosphere. Its initially relatively minimalistic soundscape is another reason why it stands out from other songs. The second half of the track, however, turns into a heavy, multi-layered ending where sad lyrical themes are overcome and Murphy’s enthusiast sings “No more worries, I killed him with both hands” and “Just give me something something to light the fuse.

The album contains many notable instrumentals that are just as important as Murphy’s vocals. The bright lead guitar riff on “People Don’t Change People, Time Does” combined with the acoustic guitar creates an interesting, almost country sound that is a different flavor for the band. The guitar riff flows with Haggis’ vocals and drums, where he frequently opens and closes the hi-hat cymbal, pushing the song along. The powerful bridge creates a different vibe from the fluidity of the other sections and elevates the song to a higher level.

Likewise, positive comments can be made about the drums and guitars on “This Car Drives Itself”. The track is headlined by drums which create an infectious groove and its timeless sound is further enhanced by the subtle guitar parts and electronic sounds. The metaphor-rich lyrics add even more appeal and the sing-song chorus and bridge will no doubt make for a great live track.

Murphy’s falsetto singing makes another appearance on ‘Wildfire’ which is certainly one of the standout songs on the album. This, along with the bass and the varied sounds of the verses, set the stage for the explosion of the chorus where another catchy guitar riff leads to the anthemic screams of “She is wildfire”. This song will likely be another favorite among crowds where they can shout the hook and clap along with the snare drum that is the driving force behind the track.

The imagery that reflects the colorful instrumentals greatly adds to the enjoyment of listening to the album

Fix yourself, not the world also features the Wombats’ vibrant, descriptive and sometimes unorthodox lyrics which add a very engaging aspect to listening to their music. Multiple examples can be found on “Don’t Poke The Bear”, including “Guess I’m still blinded by the Emperor’s new clothes” and “Cocaine eyes and a chokeslam, blood vessels I don’t like.” never knew”. ‘Yeah but that’s not the point, can I send you a quote to explain?’ on ‘Work Is Easy, Life is Hard’ is another example that produces a smile. This type of imagery that mirrors the colorful instrumentals greatly adds to the enjoyment of listening to the album and the music of The Wombats as a whole. It excites the imagination, making it an experience with an element of escapism, and displays another reason for the band’s continued popularity and success.

On ‘Worry’, Murphy creatively sings about superstition and paranoia. The track includes spoken parts and lyrics that describe various superstitions such as “Multiples of three keep me warm, keep me steady”. Instrumentally, the song has an element of discomfort that sets a mood befitting the paranoia it is about. Likewise, the nature of some superstitions is expressed in the repetitiveness of some of the sounds used. The reflection of the lyrics in the music adds another uplifting aspect to the album.

Fix yourself, not the world is a record that perfectly captures the sound and personality of The Wombats and showcases their expertise in modifying and advancing their style and creating music their fans love. It features tracks like “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” that fit right in with their greatest hits, but also successful efforts to bring new ideas and influences to songs like “People Don’t t Change People, Time Does”. ‘ It’s full of energy and features ample instrumentation alongside electronic elements, while being heartfelt and lyrically imaginative. These features are used for topical purposes leading to a disc that retains the Wombats’ well-known traits, giving it their usual sense of familiarity while feeling fresh. After five albums over almost 15 years, it shows the longevity of their sound and appeal as well as their ability to consistently deliver high quality, recognizable and inventive music.

Rating: 9/10


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