Seattle radio station the End has this thing where they put on free shows under the moniker Are You On the List? Apparently you need to get on the the list to get in the show. Not knowing any of this I just showed up at Neumo’s thinking it was just a free show. List? What List? Lucky for me the list wasn’t full so the End graciously let me into the show. In the, erm, end it wasn’t entirely free, because I had to endure a set by San Francisco band Immigrant which seem to pull off the not so envious trifecta of bad Journey, commercial 90’s alternative and faux emo.
I wasn’t sure the Wombats would be able to pull me out the malaise that Immigrant put me in, but all those thoughts were allayed when the Wombats came on and gathered around a single microphone and did there acapella song Tales of Boys, Girls and Marsupials. Singer Mathew Murphy kind of looks like a jolly Robert Smith of the Cure, wisecracking at every opportunity between songs. He and drummer Dan Haggis make a great Laurel and Hardy with their between song banter. Banter aside, the Wombats and their songs are nothing short of entertaining, with their dance, punk songs enticing the all ages crowd to mosh, pogo and crowd surf for nearly the entire set.
The Wombats sound to me like they could have been part of the UK Grebo scene from the early 90’s that included bands like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and the Wonder Stuff, but they also have a lot in common with current UK bands like Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. No matter your point of reference, the Wombats music is packed tight with pop hooks and lots of dour adrenaline. The lyrics can be a bit goofy at times, as evidenced in their novelty hit Let’s Dance to Joy Division, but the kids didn’t seem to mind, going even crazier for it. A drawback of such immediate music for me tends to be that it gets played out pretty fast in my house. I burned out on the Wombats months ago, I hadn’t listened to them for about as long. Having gone on Wombats hiatus made the show pretty fun, like seeing a band you used to listen to years ago. So songs like Kill the Director, Moving to New York and Lost In the Post all sounded fresh again. To paraphrase one of their songs, the Wombats’ tickle can easily become a scratch from too much exposure, but last night the scratch was gone, and most certainly never there for everyone at Neumo’s last night.
mp3: The Wombats – Derail and Crash (from Boys, Girls and Marsupials)