In this current time we’re in, with a seemingly never ending pandemic, many artists are looking to how their work can have a positive worldwide impact. Not The Wombats. Instead, the band, formed in Liverpool almost 20 years ago, is being realistic and doing what they’ve always done, looking internally, like really internally, at all of their own faults and things that they want to change in themselves on their fifth album Fix Yourself, Not the World, which dropped today.
The subject isn’t brand new for The Wombats, but the way they tackled it was. The album was written during a time when probably both needed to be fixed, as the band started writing it together in 2019, but ended up writing most of it from three different locations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with vocalist and guitarist Matthew Murphy in Los Angeles, bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen in Oslo, Norway and drummer Dan Haggis in London. They met on Zoom each day, but recorded their parts separately and individually sent them to the album’s five producers—Gabe Simon, Jacknife Lee, Paul Meaney, Mark Crew, and Mike Crossey.
A new way of recording wasn’t the only different turn the band embraced on this album, as they undertook new genres and a new sound that may shoo away some old fans that are resistant to change. But for those of us who don’t want to hear the same album time and time again, it’s a welcome departure. On Fix Yourself, Not The World, The Wombats knock their new sounds (multiple!) out of the park, including on opening track “Flip Me Upside Down,” in which the band embraces a more funk infused with hard rock sound, and “This Car Drives All By Itself,” which is as close to a Wombats disco song as you’re ever going to get.
Unlike other pandemic albums that capture the anxiety, boredom, and fear that the world collectively felt during the pandemic without directly mentioning it, The Wombats clearly reference it in the song “Everything I Love Is Going to Die.” Has a pandemic song ever been more aptly named? It’s a sentiment that I’ve absolutely felt during the past two years, as The Wombats clearly have as well.
With a title like that, it seems that the song could be one of the most depressing songs ever, but it remains hopeful, if not realistic. No one wants to acknowledge that everyone in their life will be dead eventually, but unless you’ve somehow become a vampire or some other immortal creature, it’s going to happen. On the song, Murphy acknowledges the sad reality that we’ve been faced with more and more as the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 840 thousand people in the US alone, according to the New York Times. At the same time, he says he’s going to make the best of life while he still has it, singing “Icarus was my best friend, so I’m going to make him proud in the end.”
While The Wombats have strayed farther from their roots than ever on this album, some things remain the same with their songwriting. They are still experts at capturing the melancholy in life in the most fun way, as they do throughout the album. It’s something they flawlessly captured in one of their best songs, 2007’s “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” in which Murphy sings “Let’s dance to Joy Division and celebrate the irony, everything is going wrong but we’re so happy.”
Sure, maybe a few years ago an album about death, sadness, sacrificing happiness for money, and deep anxiety maybe wouldn’t have hit as hard, but if you haven’t heard over the past two years, we’re in unprecedented times, baby! Instead of straying behind and trying to exist in the world in which they released their former album, The Wombats have embraced making the best out of the new era that we’re all living in, and it’s some of their best work they’ve put out in a while because it’s so deeply relatable.
In support of the album, The Wombats are embarking on several tours throughout this year, with stops in the UK, across the US, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and Australia. They’re also releasing a NFT collection—something I still don’t understand, and at this point feel like I am past the point of ever really learning about—in which the token also acts as a membership to the band’s creative universe, according to the band’s website. The NFT collection will be available Jan. 24.
It’s clear through the new genres the band is exploring on this album to the NFT collection, whatever that may end up becoming, that The Wombats aren’t content to retread old ground. The band is on their fifth album and they’re closely creeping up on 20 years together, so what better time to drastically switch things up? Maybe some old timers won’t be as enthralled with the new direction the band is taking, but on Fix Yourself, Not the World, the band’s only looking into the future.
Listen to Fix Yourself, Not the World on your preferred streaming platform here.