“Are the Wombats still around? That seems like a throwback.”
That is how my friend responded when I told him that I was en route to the Brixton Academy to watch the Liverpudlian trio, who were celebrating ten years since their debut album; A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation.
Obviously, indie-pop doesn’t harbour the same influence on the charts as it did in 2007, but The Wombats have gigged tirelessly and released three well-received albums in the last decade, surely the term ‘throwback’ seems a little harsh?
Even upon arrival, the commercial aspirations of this concert seem a little unclear and, for a band who reached the top 5 in the album chart just 2 years ago, there seems to be a very reflective, nostalgic aura in the venue.
The merchandise on offer is adorned with 10th-anniversary tour branding, giving the pessimistic impression that the group are a thing of the past- a token from a time when skinny jeans, converse shoes and an album about lovelorn teenage life could soundtrack a whole summer.
An appraisal of the crowd offers no more clues regarding this group’s demographic; as gangs of pre-adult teenage girls fill the famous venue, intercut with packs of middle-aged men who look like they are attending a budget stag-do, the latter of which were sporting an array of t-shirts from previous Wombats tours.
The bizarre scene and confusing demographic was, however, about to be fully contextualised to me once the band began their set.
Matt, Dan and Tord took to the stage to the tune of ‘Tales of Girls, Boys and Marsupials’- an acapella number from their debut album- before announcing their arrival with Kill the Director and Moving to New York.
As these tracks, both fan favourites from the first album, started both were met with identical joy from all corners of the crowd and the room was filled with a carnivalesque sense of celebration. It was becoming apparent that this was set to be an evening of throwbacks after all.
The setlist then, however, started to incorporate singles from the group’s full repertoire; including ‘1996’, ‘Give Me a Try’ and ‘Jump into the Fog’, all of which were greeted with the familiarity and warmth of their predecessors.
The 15-year-old fangirls and middle-aged fanboys alike appeared to harbour real affiliation and genuine affection for every track that is dropped, and the event started to feel a lot like a vacuum in time. A Butlins-style convention for the hardcore celebrators of indie-pop.
The Wombats capitalised upon the festival vibes in the room, incorporating teasing glimpses of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army into the set and intercutting tracks with short speeches that look back upon their time as a band.
At times, it would have been forgivable to forget how much time had passed since the group first formed in 2003, until chants of support for Jeremy Corbyn spread among the spectators or on-stage announcements that “Teresa is a wanker!” catapulted the crowd back into the bleak scenery of 2017.
The key to The Wombats‘ loyal and growing fanbase seems to be painfully obvious; it’s because they write good songs.
The group encapsulate everything that was good about the mid-00s, whilst simultaneously evolving into real, respectable songwriters over the past decade.
The pop classics about teenage heartbreak have grown up and become brutal ballads about struggling with depressions. The 3-minute guitar tunes about dancing to Joy Division have cocooned into melodic electro pop anthems; with every era represented with more honesty and charm than the last.
The Wombats‘ following may not be as numerous as it once was, but this only serves to illustrate how personal the band is to its fans; whether they were the soundtrack to their month, or each of their summers since 2007.