Review Summary: UK rock heroes The Wildhearts return from their hiatus for another crack at the success that has largely elluded them previously, with some immense results.
For the first new Wildhearts
release in quite a long while, there's been very little fanfare or media attention for this album; the odd mention, buried deep in the news section of various rock mags, suggesting that the band were planning a new album, but no full page adverts, no interviews, and certainly none of the hype that most high-profile releases get. Well, to be honest, I can quite understand why this is. The Wildhearts
are renowned for being seemingly on top of their game, and then falling to (drug-ridden) pieces at the drop of a hat (or bottle, or needle, or box of pills,). Maybe the media assumed this would be another short-lived, or failed reunion, and were a little skeptical...
...Well, this album is the ultimate slap in the face for all those who ignored the triumphant return of The Wildhearts
. If they do collapse in a final drug-induced haze and leave our lives forever, this album would prove a fitting epitaph, a final blast of fireworks at the end of the party. But if the guys have cleaned up for good, then this could be the start of a new attack that could finally see them ascend to the heights of rock royalty that have previously eluded them.
Considering the fact that lovable-but-relapse-prone Danny McCormack has been ousted for this reunion (replaced by new guy Scott Sorry), it's likely the band are truly aiming for the long-haul this time. With the line-up otherwise made up of a mixture of members from the early 90s era (CJ on guitar, Rich Battersby on drums, and ever-present guitarist/vocalist Ginger
), the band have produced what is, in my opinion, their best album yet. Playing to their strengths, they've avoided the overly commercial production of their early-2000s comeback material (which, while bringing out their brilliant melodic side, relegated their more aggressive tendencies to more of a background role), and gone for a much more well-rounded mix. The record truly packs a punch, combining the gritty-yet-melodic approach of their early material with an even more aggressive side than they've shown before, and a newfound penchant for technical riffing and longer, more complex song structures (a feat. recently displayed by Ginger
on his "Yoni"
'95's "Sky Babies"
aside, The Wildhearts
aren't exactly renowned for 7+ minute epics, but they've gone beyond expectations here and included not one, but TWO songs which push beyond the 8 minute mark. The first of the two, album opener "Rooting for the Bad Guy"
is a paean to evil underdogs everywhere, which blasts away from the starting line with a pounding beat and huge riff, before segueing into one of those massive soaring choruses that the band do so well, replete with amusing lyrics such as "I wanted Tweety-Pie crucified!"
The middle 4 minutes or so of the song consists of a more downbeat instrumental section full of inventive and catchy riffing and soloing, building up to a huge climax, before treating us to THAT chorus again. The other song of this ilk is album centrepiece "Slaughtered Authors,"
a song about the perils of record contracts, which opens with a bass-driven intro and depressing verse, before another one of those huge choruses with some impressive vocal harmonies. The instrumental parts feature some tasty thrash-inspired riffing, and more great soloing, with a few unexpected tempo shifts thrown in for good measure. The key to pulling off songs of this length is to never let things get too repetitive or boring, and sure enough, the band expertly sidestep these common pitfalls, actually leaving you wanting more when the songs are over!
The remainder of the songs are a bunch of shorter pop-rock nuggets that the band are known and loved for, and it's to their credit that they're able to make every single one of them as catchy and memorable as the one before, without ever recycling a riff or melody. My personal favourites include the slightly lighter dreamier pop-melodies of "Inner City Overture,"
the frantic (and possibly catchiest of the lot) "Bi-Polar Baby,"
and the punky "The Revolution Will Be Televised."
At a total of ten songs, and just short of an hour long, "The Wildhearts"
is long enough to sit back and enjoy for a while (or trash a house to, if that's your thing), without dragging on for too long.
With a mature and varied approach to songwriting, and a whole collection of energetic and catchy songs, "The Wildhearts"
with its almost iconic black and white cover, is an eponymous statement of intent that proves, once and for all, that these guys just don't know when to quit. And that, I can assure you, is a good thing.