Following up the group's literate, giddy 2011 effort, This Modern Glitch, Britain's Wombats return with their equally euphoric and lyrically pointed third full-length album, 2015's Glitterbug. Still centered on lead singer/songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist Matthew Murphy along with bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Tord Øverland-Knudsen and drummer/vocalist Daniel Haggis, the Wombats make an immediately infectious, skillfully polished brand of '80s-influenced synth pop that also manages to weave in the energy of '90s cool Britannia as well as the wry, often humorous social commentary of bands like the Kinks. Working with producer Mark Crew, who previously helmed Bastille's Bad Blood, the Wombats build upon the buoyant, dance-oriented vibe of This Modern Glitch, honing their sound into a tight, glossy sheen that hints at the bombastic new wave productions of '80s bands like Tears for Fears, while also fitting nicely alongside more contemporary releases by acts like the Killers and the 1975. Musically, the songs on Glitterbug are as catchy as anything they've done previously, and the group's layered, kinetic productions perfectly showcase Murphy's resonant, insistent croon. However, what sets the Wombats apart from their danceclub-minded brethren are Murphy's distinctive lyrics. Much like the Kinks' Ray Davies in the '60s or Pulp's Jarvis Cocker in the '90s, Murphy brings a sharp-witted party monster's eye for spilling the details of crazy relationships and the full-tilt boozy adventures of urban twentysomethings. In "Greek Tragedy," he sings "We're smashing mics in karaoke bars/You're running late with half your makeup on." Similarly, in "Give Me a Try," he admits "I know that I like to let excess exceed/But I just need you in that fur coat/With only my necklace on underneath," ending with the ominously cheeky "Everything I need/Vicodin on Sunday nights/This could be worth the risk." However, Murphy's knack for poignantly juxtaposing the drive for fun with the search for meaning is perhaps best expressed on the anthemic "This Is Not a Party," in which he lists off what's going on with various single-named people at an unhinged, debauched soirée. He sings "Roxy's made the call, although her boyfriend wants to go/Jane's sprawled on the floor and I have lost all self-control." Ultimately, it's this kind of life-is-short pop energy, imbued with Murphy's well-curated sense of time and place, that helps elevate the Wombats' Glitterbug from just a one-crazy-night soundtrack to an album that might stick with you for years to come. As Murphy shouts over his laser-toned keyboard, "This is not a party, it's a hurricane."
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar