It is a brave soul who first ate an oyster or nailed a shoe to a horseshoe. Likewise, trying to predict what the Wildhearts would do on their debut album by ten years, 2019‘s Renaissance Men, it would take courage. The only thing certain about this particularly creative but often troubled group is their ability to confuse. In this case, the return of the quartet was an upheaval which echoed in its amplitude to the 1993 start. Continuing this renaissance, their latest album reflects both the heavily hooked songwriting of the second feature film PHUQ, their most commercially successful album, and the limited edition Fishing For Luckies, a PE revered for his utter disregard of convention.
‘Maybe everything worked out for the best, ‘Ginger pondered loudly on Remember These Days, a song nostalgic in its theme but impeccable in its delivery. Judging by the ten songs here, he’s not wrong – while a talent like his should be headlining arenas, having survived such a whirlwind of professional and personal challenges and sounding so fresh and engaged is a credit to the both for this brilliant and complex man and his talented unit. Their physical survival and creative resurrection is something they celebrate throughout.
Nobody does stuff like that. No one could if they tried. The title track is a perfect confection of thrash and glam, hoisting a rainbow flag for love while sweeping aside social media mischief. Later, A Physical Exorcism offers pure catharsis – imagine Motörhead’s ghost‘s 1979 Classic bomber returns for one final pass, as the tonal changes shift from metal and bullet belt to the kind of vocal harmonies that would charm the Everly Brothers.
It’s material like Sleepaway, You Do You, and Directions that will sound most familiar to those who put PHUQ in the Top. ten back in the middle1990s, but even among those choppy rockers with their monstrously changeable hooks, there are elements that escape the linear. Better yet, Splitter, a derailed punk metal locomotive that crashes headlong into your smiley face before – unbelievably – reaches a delicious chorus.
Only The Wildhearts can merge elements that seem to come from several different songs in the same four minutes and make it look perfectly natural. If it was possible to uncheck it, make it into a formula, then everyone would. The best example this time is Institutional Submission, a mix of progressive metal, hardcore punk and poetic melody. You will need weeks to figure out what is really going on, as the guitars and vocals alternately nestle against your heart before violently exiting your rib cage.
Even on the last track, My Head Wants Me Dead, in which Ginger boldly confronts her mental health issues – ‘Picking up the pieces, trying to find the order they’re in‘- you are led down unexpected paths before an almost angelic guitar harmony brings you back into the chorus of the song. The album leaves you with that elusive but so intense feeling – that ‘what just happened – hunger satisfied only by pressing play again. It might seem odd to describe such an edgy band in this way, but maybe after all these years we can finally say it: The Wildhearts are a national treasure.
For fans of: Motörhead, Foo Fighters, Rob Zombie
21st Century Love Songs released in September 3 via Graphite Records.
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Posted on August 31, 2021 at 10:39 a.m.