I’m standing in the Subway station waiting for the uptown train and racing to connect to the free WiFi before my train comes so I can download the first single off of the new Wombats album. It downloads as the train is pulling in and I find my seat. I always take a moment right before listening to new music from a favorite band or artist; I want to remember where I first heard a particular song or album in case it becomes of great importance to my life. I take in the blue seats and the fairly empty train car and press play.
The first single released off of Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is “Lemon to a Knife Fight”. The song has the signature rock vibe they became famous for back in the late 2000’s, but you can hear that they’ve grown. Their earlier songs were all about their trials and tribulations of women past; like the conversations you have about that one girl at that club. Beautiful People is about being in this relationship, it’s about making what you have and what you want work. The Wombats’ members are now in their thirties and you can hear that they are starting to grow up.
Once again, I am riding the train and racing the WiFi for their second single, “Turn”. This continues to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. In classic Wombats fashion, it’s a love song turned on its head. From sweet lines like, “I like the way your brain works.” To realistic lines like, “Maybe it’s the bullshit I miss.” This is a modern love song. It’s not about dreams of the nuclear family or descriptions of an orthodox relationship, but an ode to all the weird little things that make you unbelievably drawn to another person.
The last two animalistic singles, “Cheetah Tongue” and “Black Flamingo” were introduced to me at their Brooklyn Steel show in early January. They’re the kind of songs that you feel in your body as they are performed live on stage. They reach back to the early songs where the emotion is raw. For “Cheetah Tongue”, the lyrics are all about an irresistible person, intoxicated adventure and all the human shortcomings we all have, but by the fifth track, we are back to the new grown up Wombats. “White Eyes” is another twisted love song where the lyrics depict a time where you realize you know who you need even if the circumstances aren’t easy. Sad lines like “It’s not much of a weekend when there’s one of me and none to you” help you feel the absolute emptiness of the situation. “Sometimes I feel the tension, you’re the coldest form of warm,” hits home and you can feel the tension of having your heart and body occupying different spaces. “Lethal Combinations” brings us right back to tragic party vibe that The Wombats have fabulously achieved on every album. It’s a tale of getting fucked up and feeling empty while still being dressed up and having a blast. It ties back to tracks like “Party in a Forest” from their first album or “This is Not a Party” from their most recent.
The album takes a turn here. “Out of My Head” is a monotonous tune with desperate lyrics, a whiny tone and no musical interest to save it. It feels more like a pop artist trying to be edgy than anything else. When The Wombat’s were teasing the fans with bits of info about the new album they put out a tracklist in emojis. “I Only Wear Black” intrigued me as a person whose wardrobe frequently fits that bill. What I heard was something out of a bad musical. The lyrics are lacking and the tune is obnoxiously catchy. And while I think this was the intention, I believe it was misguided. The Wombats have done some beautifully simple songs like “Little Miss Pipedream” or “Pink Lemonade” without falling into this unforgivable category. “Ice Cream” comes in at track nine. It has the same edgy-pop vibe as “Out of My Head,” which I don’t appreciate. One line does feel genuine with “Art imitates life again, Rose and I used to be friends.” The delivery is spot on, and you know how it feels to tell a story that starts like that, unfortunately that feeling was lacking from the rest of the song.
“Dip You in Honey” feels new, which is refreshing by this point in the album. The sound skews western in a way that The Fratellis have often captured while not feeling forced. There is also something trippy and psychedelic in the guitar solo that makes you feel the honey sunshine the lyrics describe. It’s happy and easy with lines like:
Baby, we were made of sunshine
Baby, we were made of stars
Tame the thunderclouds in my mind.
And while this would have been an excellent closing track to the album there is unfortunately one more left. Closing on a moody note, the final track is “I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do”. It’s depressing in the way where you can’t figure out why your best friend is in an unhealthy relationship. Where in other Wombats songs with the same message you can feel some sort of emotional desperation, like in “Our Perfect Disease” from their sophomore album, this time you just feel unsettled. After an album filled with stories of serious relationships that are worth figuring out or drunken adventures that are worth the hangover this song feels like giving up, like being stuck.