It may seem rather typical that the first time I went to a concert was to see a band that I adored in middle school. What makes my experience different, I suppose, is that I attended my first concert at age 20, last weekend, as the Wombats took the stage at Theatre Corona.
The Wombats of my adolescence were really just one album: 2007’s A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation. Their sound on this album is distinctly whimsical and pop-flavored, with a punky rhythm section backing up the singsong Scouse and guitar of Matthew Murphy. I think you will agree if you give this album a listen, which you should. At the same time though, the songs feature themes of anxiety, loneliness and dysfunctional romance, almost without exception. The song that stands out most immediately from this album is the Wombats’ best known single, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. This song is infectiously catchy, and embraces Murphy’s pouty British voice to the utmost. In my school days, this was my preferred anthem while my peers sung along to “I Gotta Feeling”, “Umbrella” or “Replay”, by the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Iyaz respectively. Looking back however, I feel that some of the other songs on the album, especially those that slow down the pace from “Joy Division”, are their best work, particularly “Party in the Woods (Where’s Laura)”, “Patricia the Stripper” and “Here Comes the Anxiety”. In retrospect, the angst of the songs can get to be a bit whiny from time to time. Folks who prefer rap or metal exclusively may find it to be too light, but if you like pop music, this may be for you.
I had some concerns, attending a concert. I didn’t really like the idea of mindless, strobe-lit hordes pushing each other around, based on my unpleasant and infrequent visits to McGill frosh events and various nightclubs. I also don’t like it when music is super loud, just in general and especially recently because I have been having some problems with my ears, so the volume was certainly a worry. The other thing is that, I really like recorded music, with all its complexity and maximum of quality. I’ve never really seen the appeal of live music, my thought process being, “This can only be worse. It cannot be better than the versions they perfected in the studio”. Also, I had heard horror stories from all over about musicians taking the stage hours late, and of those who put on awful or insulting shows.
I was justified in being concerned about most of these things. The Wombats played super loud, which at first, I actually enjoyed. My ears were getting numb by the end of the setlist though. The crowd, although manifesting in large numbers within the excellent Corona venue, didn’t really bother me too much, it wasn’t that crazy
The Wombats were not worse in live performance than on their records, and they put on a fantastic show. It was certainly, however, a very different music than what I knew of them, and it was a pleasant surprise for me. They dove after each sunshine-pop melody with the intensity characteristic of arena rock and punk music, with the rhythm section pounding through with the volume it deserved. Murphy’s guitar parts were quite the highlight for me, as he wove high-pitched chords into alternate melodies between his singing. To be honest, the only songs I recognized were “Patricia the Stripper”, “Moving to New York” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. Most of the songs were from their new release from February of this year, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Two of my favorites are “Cheetah Tongue” and the lead single “Lemon to a Knife Fight”.
My direction now is clear: start listening to The Wombats again, and continue to attend concerts.
~ Review by Will Anderson