A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation is by no means a bad album, but at the same time it’s hard to see just what all the fuss is about.
If you sing ‘Let’s celebrate the irony’, are you being ironic? Is there even a logical answer to that question? Liverpool’s The Wombats seem to think so, peppering their debut release with plenty of self-aware and/or self-deprecating turns of phrase, all delivered in lead singer Matthew Murphy’s inimitable Scouse yelp. The record’s title tells you much of what you need to know – nearly every song here is an ode to some distant, unattainable or misunderstood girl, with everyone from classmates to prostitutes to Ph.D holders getting a look in over the course of 13 not terribly different tracks. This is a band who've found their groove and seem determined to mine it for all it’s worth.
After an a capella intro, fan favourite ‘Kill The Director’ establishes the blueprint for what will follow, with chirpy, cheeky vocals tinged with a world-weary edge: ‘Here’s another song about a gender I’ll never understand’ declares Murphy matter-of-factly. The sameness is occasionally broken by some inventive use of synths and keyboards, as on ‘Party In A Forest (Where’s Laura?)’ and the pacy ‘Moving To New York’ – one of the best tracks here. You can’t help wondering, though, are they just throwing them into the mix because everyone else is these days?
Elsewhere we find the band’s most celebrated hit to date, ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’. The chunky Franz Ferdinand-like opening riff is promising, but the kiddy choir that shows up later on can’t help but grate after a few listens. It’s a furiously energetic number nonetheless and perfect for jumping about on the dancefloor. The lost-love motif really starts to wear thin by the time we get to ‘Backfire At The Disco’, but fortunately the band shift gears immediately on the next track, the gentle ‘Little Miss Pipedream’, which is reminiscent of – of all things – Jonah Lewie’s Christmas staple ‘Stop The Cavalry’ complete with ‘sleigh bell’ effects. The album finishes well, with the Beach Boys-esque harmonies of ‘Dr. Suzanne Mattox Ph.D’ and the elaborate fretwork and jangly riffs of ‘Patricia The Stripper’ moving things nicely along to the strong closing track ‘My First Wedding’. Thanks to songs like this, A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation is by no means a bad album, but at the same time it’s hard to see just what all the fuss is about.
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