It would be difficult to have Derry sunshine-pop rockers Wonder Villains keep straight faces for the archetypal solemn band portrait. Those who have listened to the quartet’s singles in the lead up to this debut album will know that creating a giddy sense of joy is firmly in their modus operandi.
Their successful national and international touring campaign (already veterans of SXSW) speak to a growing demand of pure-cut pop to clean the palate of the current wave of homegrown talent that, while deserving of acclaim, often set their songwriting templates very much in the minor key (cough, Hozier). As the album opens up into their first array of songs, however, you may be forgiven for feeling some good faith has been misplaced. Opening track ‘TV’ tries to make itself the breakout single but instead comes off as an overproduced early noughties europop yarn that might earn a middling place in the Eurovision, at best. The over-zealousness continues for the next two tracks and begins to sound less like a band concerned about writing honest-to-goodness electro pop and more about trying to keep your attention as much as possible. By the fourth track ‘33’, with its overt keyboards and American twang vocals the whole experience begins to feel like aurally downing skittles with Red Bull chasers.
Thank God this pop glitz begins to calm down midway with the touching, understated ‘Fiction’. Lyrically it seems to acts as a compliment to ‘TV’; getting soaked up by media as either star or audience can corrupt without knowing. Katy Perry has been stated by the band as an influence, and it is in this latter half of the record that they seem to learn from her best work; with appropriate balance, you can have some of your personality in even the most bubblegum of pop (see ‘Ur So Gay’). With this we get the most charming earworms on the album, with lyrical tributes to Gianfranco Zola, Debbie Harry and even Peter Petrelli from Heroes and it’s hard not to find yourself won over by the pitch-perfect ‘Ferrari’.
Overall the album suffers from being uneven, and an admittedly over-reliance on keyboards for some songs, but when the group hit it right with the latter songs you feel compelled to perhaps reconsider, gloss over, or even forgive the initial fireworks entrance.