Review Summary: Yoni is smoother and calmer than anything Ginger's released in the past. Oh yeah, and there's a vaginaflower on the cover
As anybody who’s studied physics, or chemistry, or any of the other boring sciences is likely to drop in a conversation at some point, there’s a law that underpins just about everything in nature- some we’re lucky enough to have deciphered, others we’re still at a loss for. And as anyone who’s studied Greek philosophy is wont to impart (for it is all they remember from those college years), the laws which govern music were first laid down, albeit incorrectly, by the philosopher Pythagoras, whose Greatest Hits volume also includes something about triangles. Pythagoras, it is said, was the first to attempt to explain the simple (advanced at the time!) mathematical relationship between the notes which make up a melody, be it pleasant, disconcerting or otherwise.
Nothing much happened for the next 2,500 years. Some French bloke discovered harmony, legions of European blokes sat around cafés wearing wigs, Wagner hated some Jews, and generations of ex-slaves in the American south and mid-west managed to transform primitive field-calls into something marketable with the indirect assistance of the aforementioned French bloke and men in wigs. But all in all, a pretty uneventful period in music, then… until, that is, Ginger descended from the heavens (read: Newcastle) and took the world (read: London) by storm, and redefined those very laws, proving that thrashy riffs and punky pop vocal harmonies were indeed made for each other, and all sorts of crazy shi
Like the great philosophers before him, Ginger was a charismatic journeyman with a chequered and uncertain past. Jesus was committed to Judaism before he was put to death for his reformist agenda, Mohamed tried his hand at both Judaism and Christianity before he was cast out, while Ginger used to be in The Quireboys. Mercilessly cast out of the group, Ginger set about reforming music from within with a new band, a small group named The Wildhearts, taking the best aspects of both major music forms (heavy metal and power pop) and creating a style uniquely his own. What were once empty clichés under the old guard, when uttered by Ginger became inspirational battle cries, riotous yarns or heart-breaking laments, while Cheap Trick songs finally sounded good with a post-pubescent vocalist.
, his third official effort as a solo artist, is among his most cohesive to date certainly since the first two Wildhearts albums. This is helped in no small part by the latter’s recent decision to reform, or return from sabbatical whatever state they were in, allowing Ginger to satisfy his lust for heavy rock on the one hand, and to indulge his increasingly sugary pop sensibilities under his own name. Helping him out are bassist Random Jon Poole (ex- of punk icons The Cardiacs), guitarist Jase Edwards (former bandmate of Blaze Bayley in Wolfsbane) and drummer Denzel Pearson, while Edwards and another ex-Cardiac, Tim Smith, handle production duties.
As stated, the music here contained is considerably less rough around the edges than Ginger’s usual material, a melodic tendency that’s always been present in his music, but has only begun to develop more steadily since 2004’s The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed
, but Yoni
marks the first time Ginger has let go and produced an out-and-out pop rock record, if one with noticeable metal and prog rock influences. Some of this can be attributed to Tim Smith and Jase Edwards; as a multi-instrumentalist, Smith adds many of the more unusual textures to the album, making heavy (but subtle) use of instruments from piano and synthesiser to melletron, steel drum and church organ, while Edwards’ guitar work is evident on a number of tracks, adding glossy, melodic, classic metal touches to Ginger’s more aggressive style.
Following on from the emotionally heavy Valor del Corazon
, it’s no surprise that Yoni
is a considerably more upbeat record, celebrating the good things in life rather than exorcising demons of old, and while ‘Holiday’ is the best example, it quickly offers a glimpse of the other side of the coin. A vaguely folky upbeat pop number, it’s a lyrical update of Cliff Richard’s ‘Summer Holiday,’ an outpouring of relief and excitement as he prepares to leave rainy Newcastle and spend the new year somewhere hot with his favourite person in the world. Who’s his favourite person? Presumably it’s his son, judging by its companion piece ‘Smile in Denial,’ which sets the pair in Spain, finding it more difficult than anticipated to forget their troubles or, as Ginger puts it, to “act like nothing is wrong, keep swingin’ along, like Olivia Newton John Travolta.”
‘Jake’ is Ginger’s beautiful eight-minute tribute to his son, an expression of the immense difficulty caused him by their enforced separation. Epic is generally the stock word accorded rock tracks of this size, and ‘Jake’ certainly doesn’t skimp on the bombast, contrasting an understated, string quartet-assisted verse with a loud, anthemic chorus that makes exceptional use of jangly guitars and church vocals. The ambition of the piece is mirrored in the lyrics, with skip from the sweet “if it wasn’t for your voice I wouldn’t have a telephone at all”
to the spine-tingling chorus shout of “when life opens up another window it dead bolts another door”
in reference to the cruel condition which has been placed on his greatest gift.
Generally, though, the hurt, resentment and self-debasement so prominent on Valor del Corazon
is left at the door. The term “yoni,” literally the feminine equivalent of “phallic,” is a subtle indicator of the record’s contents, brimming as it is with sexually-charged imagery. The line from which ‘Wendy, You’re Killing Me’’s title is drawn finishes with the phrase “and I don’t want it to be gently”
, while ‘This Bed’s on Fire’ surely needs no elaboration, except to state that “gonna let my tongue do all the talking”
is one of the more restrained lines, though it does pilfer much of the chorus from Van Halen's 'Jamie's Cryin'.' Album-closer and highlight ‘Siberian Angel’ briefly shows the opposite side of the equation, dealing with the consequences of illicit sex with the KISS-inspired line “Did he rock on that pussy? Make you feel better?
, hammered home by the hedonistic double bill of Bowie-like vocals and Stones-y guitars.
There’s scarcely room to mention ‘Black Windows,’ a new wave/reggae-inspired track that showcases the considerable talents of drummer Denzel Pearson and contains the only real example of Wildhearts-style heavy riffing, and ‘Can’t Drink You Pretty,’ a ferociously sarcastic number which features cameos of Glenn Miller’s ‘In The Mood’ (replete with horns) and the Andrew Sisters’ classic ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,’ (recently covered in full by the Puppini Sisters.) On an album with very few lowlights, the only major criticism to be drawn is that some tracks drag on a little too long- but when the music is this much fun, is it really that much of a problem?