Ever get the feeling that a band has toured too much recently? That they have developed a bit of a tired tour routine that could be freshened up a bit by some time off or some new material?
Unfortunately, such was the case with The Wombats, visiting the 9:30 Club Monday night from Liverpool, UK, promoting material from a pretty good second album, This Modern Glitch. Despite a lot of really clever post-punk songs, The Wombats couldn’t maintain enough momentum to keep the attention of the room, which was not quite 70 percent full, leaving audience members to drift way or to start texting people they would rather be spending their time with. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that this situation was created at least in part by the fact that The Wombats had stopped in town exactly six months previously.
I consider The Wombats to be a talented trio. I went to their last show and interviewed their drummer beforehand. The Wombats had demonstrated that they are not a flash in the pan, which they easily could have been after the indie success of their breakout single “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” Instead, they focused on solid song writing and catchy licks to produce a sophomore album that is better than their first, despite the lack of an equally catchy single like the ode to their Manchester post-punk forebears.
Although I had seen The Wombats six months previously, I tagged along with my usual concert-hopping lads, Doug and Jeremy, to see them again. Doug, who was missing in action six months ago, enjoyed the show the most because he hadn’t been over exposed to the tunes at this point. And there are a lot of good tunes to enjoy from the opener “Our Perfect Disease,” which drew a frenzied reaction from the teenage girls in the front of the audience, to the upbeat “Techno Fan” to the melancholy “Moving to New York.”
But after an initial splash, the band seemed to suffer from a bit of tour ennui despite attempts from ever-energetic bass player Tord Øverland-Knudsen to liven things up by dashing around or jumping into a cluster of the previously mentioned teenage fans in the audience. And I’ll readily acknowledge that I’m out of touch with such things, but I was a bit surprised at the teenager turnout for The Wombats. (Where do they pick up a band best known for singing about Joy Division? Had they ever even heard a Joy Division song?) The screaming gaggle of young girls, however, surely boosted the energy for the night, at least at the stage, providing some comfort to the Liverpudlians no doubt. But as I wandered the balcony of the 9:30 Club from my favorite perch at stage left, the club felt otherwise empty to me.
Lead singer Matthew Murphy and drummer Dan Haggis soldiered on, sounding pitch perfect but lacking vitality. In the end, perhaps only Doug and the teenage girls were happy.
The Wombats bought with them some diversity with their opening acts. Flagship of Charlotte, NC, (also apparently known as Flagship Brigade?) was a six-piece band that at times sounded a bit to me like an alt-country Creed. They played very well but they weren’t exploring any territory of personal interest to me. Still, I was pleasantly diverted by their single “Backseat” from their new EP Still I Wait, scheduled for release May 8, which had a catchy refrain and offered a surprising synth lilt.
Also joining The Wombats were the Static Jacks from Westfield, NJ, perhaps the most *fun* band of the night. The Static Jacks came along with The Wombats back in October as well and again powered through about 10 songs of funky punk. Vocalist Ian Devane jumped around the stage, adorned with six drawings of girls in profile, occasionally knocking things over in controlled spasms. He also enthusiastically hoisted signs such as a flip sign that read “Together” and “Forever” for their song “Into the Sun” and another sign that read “Everybody fuck off” as the refrain for their closer “Defend Rosie.” The four punk rockers were a lot of fun. The Static Jacks soon will release an EP, Spray Tan, as a follow up to their debut album “If You’re Young.” They hold a lot of promise if they can keep up the energy.