Review | The Wombats at the Gaiety, Southsea: 'Electric floor-fillers emerge once more'
‘Try not to mess up the words!’, Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy jokes to a raft of teenage fans as they prepare to unveil the songs from their latest (unreleased) album.
Tonight, on one of just a handful of ‘intimate’ shows at The Gaiety in Southsea, The Wombats can officially say they have lost their ‘gig on a pier’ virginity.
Or so front man Murph suggests. His smug grin tells the story of a boy who has just ticked off a thrilling task on his bucket list.
A big accomplishment.
But just two years ago, the Liverpudlian three-piece, renowned for their dancefloor noughties indie and synth-pop wonders, pulled a stunt that was doubly spectacular.
They became an arena band.
Unlikely? Yes. They were dumped by their major label in 2015 – the same year NME became a free sheet in the face of slumping sales.
And it’s true, when streaming one of their floor-filling hits like Let’s Dance to Joy Division or Greek Tragedy is it easy to imagine the faces of lead guitarist Tord Øverland Knudsen or drummer Dan Haggis?
But somehow their young, impressionable audience of ‘techno fans’ simply can’t get enough of them. The single, If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You from their latest album Fix Yourself, Not the World is charting at number three on the band’s most popular songs on Spotify, already boasting more than 8m streams.
At times, The Wombats’ vocals begin to grate – but Murph does own up to having worn out his vocal cords, allowing the audience to stand in for him for the start of the only song played not on their latest album, the encore – Greek Tragedy.
And their new album shows they’re heading towards more pop-facing music with bigger and brighter tracks that provoke the audience to jump up and down.
Four of these tracks have already been released, which explains the frantic sea of hands cheering and part-moshing as the chorus of Ready For the High begins.
It’s energetic – a club rhythm that leans towards something more current and gives off less of the Scouting for Girls vibe they are often associated with.
And when they unleash a giant, furry wombat onto the stage during the song it feels almost expected for a band known for their confetti cannons, inflatable bubbles and bizarre song lyrics like ‘I brought a lemon to a knife fight.’
Behind the electronics and dancefloor-focused drums though are deep and meaningful lyrics.
They tackle difficult contemporary issues.
Fix Yourself, Not the World touches on the pandemic’s effect on relationships.
As Murph sings, ‘I’ll get out of bed, Stop listening to Radiohead’ from If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You it implies someone stuck in a slump, overcome by a stoned state.
As performers, all three members are electric and charismatic. Knudsen looks in his element, often making eye contact with members in the crowd and grinning while slamming forward with his bass and stomping the floor.
It’s no wonder their tickets are so high in demand. On their more techno tracks their crowd pumping moves drive the audience into a raving frenzy.
The so-called ‘intimate’ gig – packed full – was exhilarating, and in just a few months time The Wombats will be back on the road in April for another arena tour.
Fix Yourself, Not the World shows a progression from their usual post-punk into more pop-synth, mainstream indie.
There’s still a lot to come from this ever-popular indie band.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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