Artist: The Wombats
Album: A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation
Comments: Recently, a buddy of mine asked me to put together a list of my top 10 brit-pop albums of all time. This is what you do when you are a music snob who hates his job. You make lists of albums and compare them with your friends. High Fidelity was dead on in this respect.
Anyway, our two lists differed. We both had The Stone Roses at number one, but while my friend probably legitimately likes the Stone Roses, I just put them on there because that's what any serious music critic is supposed to do. I haven't actually listened to the album the whole way through.
Me being terrible aside, a big point of contention was my inclusion of the Fratellis' Costello Music on my list at number 10. My buddy called me out on it, claiming that Costello Music is nothing more than a flash in the pan pop record with nowhere near the longevity of, say What's the Story, Morning Glory?, Silent Alarm or The Bends.
I can't dispute that claim. The album is nowhere near as memorable as any of those other records, but it's way more fun than most of them. Sure, "Price of Gas" might be an incredible song, but when's the last time you threw on Bloc Party while drinking with some friends? Costello Music is full of low-impact, feel good music rich with cheap thrills and easy comedy. It's the audio equivalent of Anchorman; stupid and fun and easy to play over again.
I feel the same way about The Wombats and their album Proudly Present a Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation. The album is cleverly written, the way all snotty young UK songwriters seem to be these days, and full of short blasts of catchy pop-punk in the vein of The Fratellis, Dogs Die in Hot Cars and The Futureheads (seriously, is it some kind of requirement that all brit-pop bands be good at harmonizing?).
The two lead singles are "Let's Dance to Joy Division," which is about exactly what it sounds like, and "Kill the Director," which boats a Bridget Jones shout out and one of the most concise summaries of pop-punk I've heard in some time ("With the angst of a teenage band / here's another song about a gender I'll never understand.") "Director" sticks more for me but that might be because I never took a shine to Joy Division.
The album is predictable in its content, but witty in its delivery. The best songs on the album are about falling in love with the most inappropriate women (a therapist on "Dr. Suzanne Mattox PHD" and a stripper on the album-best "Patricia the Stripper") and drinking too much and making mistakes ("Backfire at the Disco," and "My First Wedding"). All these songs are found on the back half of the disk, making most of the first seven songs totally passable.
Of course, if you play the whole thing front to back, you won't be disseminated. A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation is exactly what it wants to be; catchy love songs for fuckups. Time will tell if these guys have got anything more in the tank, and Hot Club de Paris is still the best UK brit-pop band operating, but you'll be hard pressed to have more fun with an album this fall.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: Patricia the Stripper, Backfire at the Disco, My First Wedding
Buy, Steal, Skip: What the hell, why not buy it? Don't you like fun?