Pop go the Wombats, a Liverpool musical treasure 

Matthew Murphy was not expecting a sophomore jinx.

His Liverpool, England, power trio the Wombats had easily conquered the U.K. Top 40 with their Buzzcocks-bratty 2007 debut, “A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation,” and delectable hits such as “Kill the Director” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.”

Surely the album’s follow-up would flow just as smoothly, the guitarist/vocalist thought, as he settled into his new London flat two years ago to compose it. But he soon realized how wrong he was.

First came the decompression, says Murphy, 26, who brings the Wombats to Popscene in The City Friday. “We were working for two and a half years straight, just touring,” he says. “And when everything stopped, I had no idea what to do, really. I guess it takes time to adjust to normal-day life, where you get used to going to the supermarket and stuff. But that proved quite difficult, then depressing.”

Then came the car crash, where Murphy hydroplaned off the highway into a ditch one rainy night.

“The accident was awful, and it all happened so fast — I nearly flipped the car, but didn’t,” he says. “But I got a song out of it called ‘Motorphobia.’”

The track — along with other dirges such as “Guillotine” and “Firing Squad” — comprised the initial songs Murphy handed to his overseas Warners imprint for record No. 2.

“The label said, ‘We’re not so sure that this is the right direction,’” he says. “And they were totally right, although it was hard to hear at the time. That first batch of songs was really angry, very different from anything we’d done before, which is why they haven’t made the album.”

To arrive at the forthcoming “This Modern Glitch,” Murphy took a radical creative step. He moved back in with his folks in Liverpool, ate sit-down family dinners and slept in his childhood bedroom, still plastered with Radiohead and Kurt Cobain posters.

“It was good to have regular prepared meals again, and nice to hang out with old friends who kept me grounded,” Murphy says. This led to a second batch of peppier punk-pop songs such as “Jump Into the Fog,” “Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)” and “I Never Knew I Was a Techno Fan.”

The process taught Murphy three valuable lessons — do not party so hard on tour and never stop writing, especially on the road.

“And the third? To not get stressed out when nothing comes, songwritingwise,” he says. “I’d lock myself in a room for eight hours and expect something great to come along, and when it didn’t it was aggravating. So I’m just learning how to relax.”


The Wombats

Where: Popscene, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $15
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.snagtickets.com

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Tom Lanham

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