It’s been 11 years since The Wombats first record, the generation-defining The Wombats Proudly Present… A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, which first came out in the mid-00s era of explosive indie guitar bands. Now on their fourth record, and with another lengthy name, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life continues their foray into the poppier side of indie-rock, following 2015’s Glitterbug.
Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life was crafted in three spots around the world. Drummer Dan Haggis was located in London, while bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen was in Oslo and lead singer Matthew Murphy (Murph) was in the sunnier Los Angeles. Essentially a record made because of the beauty and ease of the internet, it was also made from a mixture of internet writing sessions, as well as an intense two-week in-person session in Oslo. It’s produced by Mark Crew (Bastille’s Bad Blood) and Catherine Marks (The Big Moon’s Love in the 4th Dimension) and almost instantly those indie-pop credentials are clear.
The most impressive aspect to Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is just how easy it is to slip back into The Wombats’ melodic universe. It may have been a long time since their debut album, but they haven’t lost any of their melodious charm and eccentric lyrical beats. Album opener, ‘Cheetah Tongue’, described by lead singer Murph as, “A song about dealing with the pressures of adulthood and failing miserably”, is a euphoric romp with a chorus catchier than some of The Wombats’ finest hits. Follow-up, and lead single, ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’ continues The Wombats’ interminable relationship with the kooky and, immediately, the record has demonstrated The Wombats at their most vintage.
Likewise, second single, ‘Turn’, is a buoyant, unremittingly memorable indie jam, with some of the delicate electro cadence that made some of Glitterbug so much fun. There’s a youthful exuberance to The Wombats that could certainly split people down the middle. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see a band continue to embrace their immature side and subsequently recapture people’s youths. However, now the band are in their 30s, it could be construed as a little bit cringe-worthy. Luckily, for most of the record it works: it’s pleasant entertainment with more melodic hooks than you can shake a stick at. A great example of this is ‘Ice Cream’ which, ironically because they sung about dancing to Joy Division all those years ago, recalls the fetching bassline from New Order’s ‘Age of Consent’. It makes for a spikey backdrop that contradicts the honeyed lyrics superbly. It’s got all the makings of a live favourite, with places to hand clap, and a dynamic, sprawling chorus. This move from Joy Division to New Order, too, almost perfectly captures their progress as a band: very little.
For example, there are a few times, and mostly during the final section of the record, where it does fall into those wince-inducing tropes, as if they haven’t musically advanced since their inception. For example, ‘Dip You in Honey’ is a saccharine cut that is about as sickly sweet as it sounds. Furthermore, album closer ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do’ is a repetitive, meandering conclusion to the record that almost derails the album before it hits the finishing line.
There isn’t much new here, so if The Wombats didn’t win you over all those years back they certainly won’t now. In addition, it certainly starts better than it finishes, with the singles appearing in the first side of the album. However, for already existing Wombats fans, there’s a lot to like here. From the zany to the catchy, all the way to the all-out indie bangers, The Wombats still have that knack of describing, and soundtracking, your teenage years. When that clicks into place, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is a luscious time capsule back into the land of 00s indie.