It’s been 10 long years since The Wildhearts released their last album ‘Chutzpah!’ If there was any justice in the world it would’ve been a massive hit album for them, and Ginger would have the recognition he deserves as one of the UK’s most prolific and constantly creative songwriters.
But lady luck has never shone down on The Wildhearts, she just threw shit in their general direction. Drugs & alcohol, in-band fights and shitty record labels got in the way. Even though they scraped the top 20 and featured on TOTP multiple times, sadly it was never meant to be. It would seem that sometimes, even the greatest bands are destined to never make it.
But the Wildhearts have a legacy, a fucking great musical legacy that will never be erased whatever the future holds. While they disbanded after ‘Chutzpah!’ (for the umpteenth time), there have been sporadic reunion gigs and anniversary tours. And with original bassist Danny McCormack back where he rightfully belongs, the classic line-up of The Wildhearts entered the studio to record the album many fans thought they would never get to hear.
It seems you can’t keep a good band down, and The Wildhearts are back in your face, fighting fit and stronger than ever before.
The metallic riff to ‘Dislocated’ blasts open the album like ‘Live Wire’ opened ‘Too Fast For Love’. Did I just reference Motley Crue in a Wildhearts album review? Yes, I did! But that’s where the resemblance ends, as ‘Dislocated’ goes off on a musical tangent to itself, as The Wildhearts are well known to do. Tackling mental health and alienation, the lyrics are spat with the vitriolic, reckless abandon of a man literally teetering on the edge of sanity.
Fuck me, that chorus! It builds and builds and keeps on giving. Then there’s the welcome return of Danny’s unmistakable bass rumble, as much a part of The Wildhearts sound as anthemic choruses and crunchy guitars. ‘Dislocated’ is a song for the outcasts in an age where Ginger’s lyrics are more relevant than ever.
Next, we are straight into ‘Let ‘em Go’. Classic, anthemic Wildhearts at their finest. A football terraced style anthem with an uplifting chorus you will be singing on first listen, and long after the needle has lifted. “Let ‘em go, let the shit-filled rivers flow” the whole band chant, as you wonder how you have survived for so long without this melody in your head. A future live favourite for sure. No one does it better…no one.
The following title track is a weird one, not sure about this yet. The almost tribal beats and backing chants bring to mind the film ‘Madagascar’ for some reason. With a cool riff and a great euphoric chorus, it’s a song about the band being back in your face, and hopefully, they are here to stay.
‘Fine Art Of Deception’ is a song I first heard Ginger and CJ play acoustic at The Fulford Arms in York last year. This is a tune that could have been lifted from the ‘555%’ sessions, I feel. The “bullshit” refrain stands out as pure Wildhearts fodder though and harks back to their early days.
‘Diagnosis’ builds on an AC/DC style riff before morphing into classic Wildhearts crunchy goodness. Air guitar and goosebumps (see Pilo Erection below) come hand in hand as Ginger and CJ’s vocal harmonies intertwine to create the magic we love and crave from The Wildhearts. It builds to a euphoric, killer chorus set to be a mainstay at hot and sweaty future gigs.
‘My Kinda Movie’ will kick off side two (if you are listening on cassette or vinyl). It comes on like a classic Wildhearts B side, and we all know how good those are, right? A metallic, staccato riff makes way for intense, urgent drums from probably the most underrated drummer in rock music, Ritch Battersby. Chugging, dampened guitars match the rhythm of the verse that makes way for a gang vocal chorus, a wild as fuck wah-wah solo and a section that goes up the musical scale again and again. Holy shit, that’s a workout!
‘Little Flower’ is again, a song I heard previewed acoustic last year and one of the most instant songs on the album. CJ penned I believe, it certainly has his knack of pop sensibilities stamped all over it. A hook as catchy as anything out there, it will bury deep into the subconscious on first listen and threaten never to leave, job done.
That signature Wildhearts dampened, crunchy regimental riffage introduces ‘Emergency (Fentanyl Babylon)’. The subject matter is pretty self-explanatory, here Ginger even name-checks Tom Petty and Prince before laying waste with a brutal chorus that will incite the listener to shout the “emergency” refrain and bang their heads until the beats abruptly cease. Glorious in all the right places.
‘My Side Of The Bed’ is disjointed riff-o-rama in god knows what time signature, with sublime vocal harmonies that suck you in on first listen. There is so much going on in this crazy song it’s hard to describe, but imagine Cheap Trick jamming with Primus for starters. So much love for this tune already.
The “one-two-fuck you” count in signals the closing track ‘Pilo Erection’. Crunch, bang, wallop! We are up and running for the final time as the band get a full-on workout, riff after riff and chanting gang vocals aplenty, a powerhouse performance especially from Ritch as his skills are tested to the max.
If you are wondering what Pilo Erection means, Google the fucker like I did! Let’s just say The Wildhearts give me a Pilo Erection everytime and you can quote me on that.
The arrival of a new Wildhearts album has always been an event. Call me biased, but it makes me realise that most other bands pale in comparison and it has been so long that I nearly forgot that!
I was expecting this album to be a cross between ‘Earth Vs’ and ‘Chutzpah!’, yet surprisingly it sounds like neither, in fact, it sounds like no other Wildhearts album that has come before it.
Like ‘Fishing For Luckies’ and the self-titled ‘White Album ‘, ‘Renaissance Men’ takes multiple listens to sink in and every time I listen, something new jumps out. My favourite track is changing on a daily basis and even though it’s early days, I can’t imagine I will hear anything better this year.
Hopefully, this is as much a resurgence as a renaissance and we can expect more from this band in the near future. But for now, bask in the glory that is the new Wildhearts album and come back in 6 months when it’s all sunk in and tell me how great it is.
Author: Ben Hughes
Buy Renaissance Men Here