Sunday 22 June 2014

Album Review: Wonder Villains - Rocky

(No Dancing Records/Third Bar)

I first heard of Wonder Villains all the way back in 2009, after the band won a competition to support Oppenheimer at their final ever gig in the Limelight. When I heard the song that helped them to win the competition, "Oh Peter", I became instantly smitten. This was an uncynical, highly enjoyable pop song at its finest, and the fact that the song referenced one of my favourite TV shows at the time, Heroes, didn't hurt either. From that moment on, I knew that there was something special about these guys, and the singles they released and the dozens of times I saw them live in the intervening period only hammered home that point. 

Now nearly five years after first falling for them, Wonder Villains have finally released their debut album "Rocky" (which takes its name from Rocky O'Reilly, who was involved in the production of the album). Having spent the last few years telling all and sundry about how awesome I believe the band to be (and believe me, I have done that a lot on this blog), there's always the worry that when the album is released, I will have set my expectations too high and as a result I will be underwhelmed by it. So, having heard "Rocky", how would I describe the album?

The answer - bloody marvellous. 

The album starts as it means to go on with the day-glo pop sound of "TV". This is then followed by the more measured sound of "Blonde" before plunging head first into "Zola", which is one of the highlights of the album. Why its chorus of 'the keeper said to Zola, you're dead when this is over, and you're out until October' hasn't been adopted as a nationwide terrace chant yet is a mystery, but given its recent re-release, there's still hope for it. The band's traditional live opening song "33" comes up next (quite surprising that it's track 4 rather than the opening song), before we get to what is quite possibly my favourite 'new' track recorded for the album.

"Golden Five" is one of the more complex songs on the album with it's many key and tempo changes, but at its heart is a fantastic pop song, one that sits somewhere in between "The Look" by Metronomy and "Boys Don't Cry", complete with irresistible "ba ba ba" hooks that have left it permanently lazered in my brain since I first heard them play it live last year. I've been lobbying for it to be released as a single since then, so even if it doesn't make the jump, it's still great to finally have a studio recording of the track.

The band's penchant for pop-culture referencing remains ever-present on the album. Aside from the aforementioned "Oh Peter", which has been re-recorded to make it more 'band' sounding, there's the Blondie-referencing "Debbie", a tribute to Jason Segal's character in How I Met Your Mother in the form of  the hyper-fun "Marshall", "Baby Don't Look So Sad", a song that takes the form of an open letter to Bruce Springsteen, and "Ferrari", a song that contains the band's most memorable lyric - I swapped my brother for a Pok√©mon card, a shiny Charizard."

Aside from a few minor quibbles (I do feel that "Linklater" sounds better when performed live rather than on record), "Rocky" by Wonder Villains is a fantastic debut album of fun filled, huperactive pop songs of the highest calibre. It is evertyhing I wanted in an album by Wonder Villains, and much, much more. Show me a better pop album released in 2014, and I will show you a liar. 

Release Date: 23rd June 2014

Highlights: "Zola", "Golden Five", "Ferrari", "TV".

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