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Album Review: The Wombats ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’

Good, but not great attempt follow up to it’s magical predecessor.

Curt Tagtmeier

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In February of 2018, Liverpool, England band The Wombats released Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. The trio gained great notoriety in 2015 with Glitterbug, which included  “Greek Tragedy” and “Give Yourself a Try.” These two tracks capitalize on catchy hooks to go along with clever lyrics. They illustrate a contrast between serious lyrical content and riffs that have you on the dance floor.

In some ways, Beautiful People carries on some of the themes of  Glitterbug with great success. “Turn,” with the band’s penchant for irony that brings insightful, clever, and funny lyrics, is a good example: “You could give an aspirin the headache of its life,” “Listening to Drake in your best friend’s swimming pool,” “I want to get college girl drunk tonight.”

Lyrics such as these are not only humorous, but they’re hip as well. Sharp lyrics set the Wombats apart. This band has been widely considered as part of the post punk revival in indie music, which can be characterized as a kind of mixture of post-punk bands from the seventies and New Wave artists of the early eighties. A great comparison would be the Cure. One of their early songs that hit the mark was called “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” 

Yet, in other songs, the band seems to be trying to be too clever and possibly trying too hard at this sense of irony. Examples include “bringing a lemon to a knife fight,” “melting like an ice cream in the sun,” “I want to dip you in honey.” Lyrics such as these almost seem lame when compared with some of their better lyrics on this album.

Each song hits the mark very well with their brand of post-indie pop as they have created an album filled with catchy guitar hooks that more than make up for lyrics that seem to border on the ordinary every so often.The guitar work on this album still emphasizes their pop sensibilities, but in contrast to Glitterbug, it gets a bit heavier on many of their riffs on this album.

Yet, their ability to play catchy guitar hooks is what sets this band apart because even when the lyrics do not blow you away. The guitars always more than make up for lyrics that are not exactly a playing Cricket in a crowded bar bullseye. Their sound on this album is reminiscent of quite a few bands that one would immediately think of upon hearing it. If one would want to label them, a very telling one would be that they are a British Bleachers (the Jack Antonoff group), because both bands hit on the ups and downs of relationships, love, girls and frustration.

One such track is entitled “I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do,” which could have been an outtake on the most recent Bleachers album, Gone Now, with a song like “Hate That You Know Me.” A great idea for a reality show would be going on a double date with lead singer Matthew Murphy and Bleachers lead singer Antonoff. Another similar quality both bands share is the ability to create gradual building crescendo into a sing along chorus.

Upon deeper analysis of the lyrics, one realizes that beneath these clever lyrics is a recurring theme of sadness, depression. There is an ongoing frustration at the fact that he is in a negative relationship, but the insanity of such a relationship is the only way for him to remain happy. A song like “Lethal Combination” informs the listener of this fact as Matthew sings about the idea that if you are getting up and you’re happy, then you’re doing it wrong. In the same song, he talks about holding each other’s head back. This is clearly a reference to being with someone that enjoys the partying lifestyle. This is another key theme in their songs that has continued on this album.

There are again references to taking pills, getting wasted as well just like their brilliant line from Glitterbug, “Vicodin on a Sunday night.” The interesting thing about this band comes in the delivery of the lyrics, which in my opinion has been influenced by early Arctic Monkeys. This makes sense, because The Wombats released their first studio album just after the release of the Monkeys’ debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not.

One may call Mr. Murphy possibly a poor man’s Alex Turner without the New Musical Express critical acclaim. Yet, The Wombats have continued on with their own brand of You Look Good on the Dancefloor, while Arctic Monkeys have been more melancholy in their newer music. The genius of the Wombats is that their songs are well disguised beneath the mask of humor.

If you were to go in and read the lyrics to this album, you may reach the same conclusion that I did: this dude is pretty messed up and he may not be that fun to be around. Another influence that came to mind upon hearing this album was a really depressed Rivers Cuomo, because not only are the lyrics much like the wit of Weezer, but the fact that the sound is that same brand of Weezer power-pop we have heard over the years.

Beautiful People is a good album, but I will not designate it a great one because it fails to recreate the total magic of Glitterbug.

However, it has its moments and the music is something you can play on the dance floor, any place outside of a diehard EDM festival, and the people would start to actually bob their heads. 7 out of 10.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Curt Tagtmeier is a writer and librarian hailing from Chicago, Illinois. He has a Master’s degree in history and library science. He is currently writing a music series entitled Chances Are Music Is All I Got, which began in May 2017 available on Amazon. The series aims to review 100 live premium concerts by May 2019. Mr. Tagtmeier is currently on 80 shows so far. You can follow this journey on Instagram @chancethebook11 and his Tumblr blog, How Am I Not In The Strokes Yet. When he isn’t writing or listening to great music, Curt is most likely sleeping.

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