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Music Review

The Wombats: 'A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation'

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The Wombats: 'A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation'
Released on Monday, Nov 5 2007

Liverpool has such a strong musical heritage it's probably become something of a curse to its many young bands. The explosion of psychedelic, ska-infused rock acts that popped up in the early '00s (namely The Zutons and The Coral), was the most recent flourish from a city that has served us up more classic pop per square yard than just about anywhere else in the country. And they also gave us Sonia. While you'd normally expect this to a have a positive knock-on effect for young guns trying to make a break for pop stardom, it can actually end up going the other way. Expectations of what a Liverpool band should sound like - trad, Beatles-y, Noel Gallagher-approved - might help those stuck in a time warp and keen to express their devotion to all things Scouse, but it can also hinder those who try to take a route away from the beaten track. So it's perhaps a testament to the enthusiasm and dedication of The Wombats that they have managed to make a name for themselves without sounding like a regurgitated, reformed version of anyone else from the capital of the North-West.

That isn't to say The Wombats are some radical, revolutionary rock act that are ready to blow your mind with warped soundscapes and ethereal atmospheres - because they certainly aren't. A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation is about as simple as it gets. If it were a movie it would be American Pie. It's young, dumb and full of - well - tunes. It's just that the band's musical lineage (Ian Dury And The Blockheads, The Housemartins, The Kaiser Chiefs, a little bit of Franz) are all very much of the non-Liverpudlian variety. Their debut LP is a scuzz-rock delight which has been coated in candyfloss and dipped in melted chocolate to add a sugary pop after-taste. From the barbershop, hand-clapping frenzy of 'Tales of Girls, Boys and Marsupials' to the scatter-shot disco beats and "woo-wooh" chants of album-closer 'My First Wedding', this debut is a constant helter-skelter of high-energy pop hooks and white knuckle riffs.

You should already have heard the delights of their singles 'Let's All Dance To Joy Division', and 'Kill The Director'. If you haven't, then imagine a band with the sense of humour of Ben Folds or too-often-forgotten '90s indie-kids Hefner that can create a Futurehead-style racket, and you'll be somewhere approaching the fun induced by The Wombats. If you're the sort of person who yells yah-boo-sucks to the shoe-gazing, introspective, sulkiness of bands like Bloc Party and Radiohead, then the indulgent, everyday's-a-birthday attitude of these Scouse scamps should be right up your alley. OK, some people may find the fixed grins, spiky attitude and 'wacky' song titles all a bit much to swallow, but every now and then we all need a bloody good pop riff to let our sozzled brains deal with the latest fifty-seven minute jazz loop that Radiohead decided to release (anyone still listening to In Rainbows?). Children's choirs, pop harmonies nicked from the McFly best of, and choruses big enough to fit all five of the Spice Girls' egos in make this record a true guilty pleasure. It's not too dissimilar to watching the latest Heather Mills woe-is-me rant on YouTube. You know you should turn off, but by golly, you haven't had this much fun in years!

Album highlights include the scream-along 'School Uniforms', which squeezes in taut guitar jingle-jangle and the cracking chorus: "Short skirts, long hair, hormones flying everywhere" and is performed with the giddy glee of a 14-year-old boy locked in his bedroom with his first copy of Nuts magazine. 'Backfire At The Disco' has a Franz-style disco shuffle and selection of romping verses that collide in a glittering, clattering chorus. Meanwhile 'Dr Suzanne Mattox PHD' (there's the crap titles we mentioned!) is The Beach Boys' hit 'Help Me Rhonda' smothered in Vimto, Orangina and a few post-punk guitars. In other words - it's ace! Quite where The Wombats will go with album number two is anyone's guess. There's enough knowing nudges, in-band jokes and cheeky winks to suggest that they fancy themselves as a modern day Monkees. Ant and Dec better watch their backs, because on the basis of this record, TV stardom beckons.

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