Fix Yourself, Not the World, the fifth full-length studio album from Liverpool trio the Wombats, was created during lockdown with the band’s members recording their respective parts and sending them in remotely from three different countries: America, Norway, and England. Unless you knew going in that the original lineup of Matthew Murphy, Tord Øverland Knudsen, and Dan Haggis weren’t in the same room, you’d never guess, as the group sounds exceedingly tight. Some, if not all, the credit for the new record’s cohesive sound must be attributed to the handful of producers who engineered the entire affair and gave FYNtW its slick and polished vibe throughout.
A thick bassline starts “Flip Me Upside Down” and doesn’t last a full five seconds before two handclaps are heard and we’re off to the races. The leadoff track from FYNtW is a perky number that utilizes a generous helping of studio synthetics to color an already lively palette. “Flip Me Upside Down” relies heavily on Haggis’ excellent drumming and Øverland Knudsen’s solid bass work while Murphy’s guitar is almost imperceptible in the mix. Fans listening for Murphy’s instrumental contribution won’t have to wait long, however, as an acoustic guitar features prominently during the lovely “This Car Drives All by Itself”. The Wombats try their hand at Phoenix-style synth rock during the excellent “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming with You”. The standout moment has Murphy singing lines from the perspective of a mopey guy infatuated with a much more cheerful person. “I’ll get out of bed, stop listening to Radiohead, take you out of this, your reluctant optimist,” the Wombat’s guitarist and songwriter sings just before the track’s chorus kicks in.
The second third of the album begins with the hard rocking “Ready for the High”, a song that starts with bash and crash guitar and drum heaviness before falling into an almost funk groove complete with horns. “Method to the Madness” is Fix Yourself, Not the World‘s first ballad. The track smartly has the least amount of studio hands on it, and it’s for the best, as the moment’s scaled back instrumentation serves as a showcase for Murphy’s beautifully smooth croon.
The Wombats try out New Order-inspired disco during the first song on the album’s second side, “Everything I Love Is Going to Die”. Much like everyone on the planet has probably done at least once over the last two years, Murphy ruminates on the pandemic and his mortality as his lyrics reflect upon the ephemerality of life and the preciousness of the time we’ve been given. “There’s no experimenting here, no threesomes like we talked about when we were blacking out,” he sings at one point during a drum and bass breakdown.
FYNtW‘s final third begins with a distinctly R&B stylized song titled “Wildfire”. And just like any sexed up, modern R&B song, Murphy utilizes a falsetto to sing lines like, “tell me, sugar, am I close to getting close? Is there something I need to know?” If there’s any weak moment on the record, it’s “Don’t Poke the Bear”. The song, an obvious take on 90’s Brit pop, is fairly straightforward and offers little in terms of lyrics, leaning into (much as the song’s title suggests) a few well-worn cliches…and not much else.
The album finishes strong with the nervous, 80s disco energy of “Worry” followed by the record’s closer and title track, “Fix Yourself, Not the World”. Although brief, the song makes for a lovely farewell, as Murphy sings, “I don’t want to lose myself in someone else’s game, I’m gonna stay right here in the California rain.” The Wombats manage to experiment with a variety of styles on Fix Yourself, Not the World, and most of the time the results are favorable. If you like your British indie rock eclectic and glossy, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.