More Nuance Needed
Think of everything you like about Passion Pit. Now think about how their 2012 release, Gossamer, was a bit of a diluted version of their debut, Manners. Now, dilute Gossamer to about 50% of its original strength and you are left with Glitterbug, the most recent release by England’s The Wombats.
Glitterbug is a fine electro-pop outing, eminently danceable and well produced. The melodies and instrumentation all go down easy with plenty of commercial ready hooks. At their best these songs sound like they belong in those early iPod commercials. You know, the one’s that featured the Fratellis and other groups that seemed great for a hot second. Or perhaps a FIFA soundtrack would be more fitting.
The production is loud and glittering in that maximalist style one ought to expect from pop music, but it’s never overbearing. It never exhausts the listener the way poorer productions do, like the last Cold War Kids album, for instance. Songs like “Emoticons,” “Give Me A Try” and “This Is Not A Party,” all rise slightly above the rest, but, being honest, every song sounds roughly the same. There is hardly a change in tempo or dynamics throughout the whole album.
The only time there is a significant change, and by that virtue the best track on the album, is on “Isabel.” Here, The Wombats decide to slow things down a bit and let Matthew Murphy’s smooth, endearing voice take center stage, particularly when his accent comes through. It’s not only the most interesting track on the album, it also boasts the richest and most carefully crafted melody. There are subtle harmonies that pop in and out, and the band shows admirable restraint with the electronics. If they hadn’t included the unnecessary bass drum throughout the track, it could have been close to perfect.
Alas, The Wombats couldn’t abandon that last pop element, the omnipresent bass drum, and the song suffers for it. It’s a nice microcosm for the rest of the record. There’s a natural beauty to Murphy’s voice and an exciting shimmer to the production aesthetic. If The Wombats had exercised more restraint, or had dialed down the easy pop elements in favor of the more nuanced song writing they seem to be capable of, then Glitterbug could have been an excellent album.