Review Summary: Riff after riff after motherf*cking riff, or, why The Wildhearts can't be destroyed
The Wildhearts are one of rock ’n’ rolls greatest almost-weres. They got their start in the early ‘90s, when their fusion of metallic hard rock riffs, snarling punky sardonicism, power pop melodic sensibilities, and more hooks than a fisherman’s convention, seemed almost perfectly constructed to shoot them to stardom. Yet the band somehow managed to miss the boat to worldwide relevance and petered out as a popular cult act thanks to record label feuding, intra-band tension, and a cocktail of drug addictions. Nearly thirty years later, and a decade after their last release, the band’s music is almost aggressively out of style, but instead of making concessions to popular trends The Wildhearts have returned once again to save twenty-first century rock music from its joyless, feckless, humourless modern self, by serving up some proper
rock ’n’ roll filled to the brim with monstrous arena-sized riffs, Friday night pub-shoutalong choruses, and palpable anger sharpened by frontman Ginger Wildheart’s ageless wit.
From the get-go Ginger and crew take unabashed aim at everything they think ails the world, from online bullying (“Dislocated”), to depression, suicide and drug prescription-culture (“Diagnosis” and “Fentanyl Babylon”), to people with racist, misogynistic and homophobic tendencies (“Let ‘Em Go” and “My Side of the Bed”). Despite the overt cynicism of some of the lyrical matter the songs still exude a kind of resilient optimism and positivity that’s buoyed by the upbeat melodies and riffs. Renaissance Men
doesn’t get bogged down by the dark side of life in 2019; it takes it in stride and endeavours to overcome it. Some of its message is a tad diluted by a little too much mawkishness—despite their snarky wit, The Wildhearts have always had a mile-wide sentimental streak—but even at its most kumbaya
, Renaissance Men
has enough energy and infectious melodicism to lend it an air of unapologetic sincerity.
Possibly the biggest compliment one can give an album by a band this deep into their career is that, if you had never listened to them before, this would be a great place to start listening. This definitely holds true of Renaissance Men
. Songs like the title-track, “Dislocation”, “Diagnosis”, and "Pilo Erection", are the perfect distillation of everything that makes The Wildhearts special. “Let ‘Em Go” even has a classic potty-mouthed refrain (“Let ‘em go / let ‘em go / let the sh!t-filled rivers flow
”) that taps into the same dumb-funny-catchy vein of lyrical gold as “My Baby is a Headf*uck” off 1993’s Earth vs. The Wildhearts
. At its best, Renaissance Men
is another gleaming feather in the cap of a band that is, in some alternate dimension, enjoying all the success that the Foo Fighters are enjoying in our own, and at its worst it’s a hark back to a simpler time when the only requisites for a raucous good time were an electric guitar, a thunderous backbeat, and a simple melody.
You can stream the album here: