Author's Note: This review was originally published on 411Mania.com. It can be found here:
When the Wildhearts released their debut album in 1993, they seemed to be Britain’s answer to Guns n’ Roses. They had it all: Hard rock raunch, thunderous riffs, and an excessive lifestyle. While the band seemed like another Guns knockoff, it was their love of pop music that set them apart from their peers. The combination of riffs and melody seemed like a surefire recipe for success. Unfortunately band infighting and substance abuse tore the band apart before they made a significant mark on the mainstream hard rock scene. On their self-titled album, The Wildhearts have another shot at full-on rock stardom.
The Wildhearts is the best rock record to be released in 2007. Guitarist and main songwriter Ginger has cleaned up his act and it shows. This is his tightest collection of songs since 1995’s P.H.U.Q. The songs contain every element that make the Wildhearts so exciting: Bludgeoning riffs, pop harmonies and lyrics with rapier wit. The Wildhearts roar out of the speakers with the ferocity of a mechanized tank. This is not a halfhearted attempt at a comeback; this is an attempt for world domination.
While the band’s trademark sound remains in tact, they manage to throw some curveballs in the mix. The biggest change is the twin guitar duels between Ginger and second guitarist CJ Wildheart. The Wildhearts have never been afraid to solo, but the extended jamming on tracks like “Rooting for the Bad Guys” add another layer to the band’s dense sound. A five minute guitar solo might seem emissary and indulgent, but the music is so focused and intense that it breezes by. Every note has been meticulously planned, and each one has a place within the context of the song.
The twin leads of Ginger and CJ are intriguing, but the most interesting thing about The Wildhearts is how the band finds new ways to fold in their love of pop melodies. The band goes back and forth between the two genres, often several times within a song. Many songs contain musical references from the most unlikely places. “The New Flesh” takes its lyrical structure from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
Lyrically, the band has grown up a bit. The decadent lifestyle portrayed on the early records is there, but not as prominent.. Ginger’s lyrics are more political, taking cunning swipes at the Bush Administration and the United States’ involvement in the Iraq War. He also tackles social issues such as welfare and religion. The strength of the political songs is subtlety. Ginger’s voice never rises above a laid-back drawl, so his anger isn’t apparent at first. After repeat listens, the depth of Ginger’s anger comes into full view.
The Wildhearts is a rarity in 2007: A rock record that never sounds forced. Everything from the solos, to the melodies to the lyrics is completely organic. The Wildhearts is a throwback to a time when rock bands worked to make artistic statements. This is an album, not a collection of songs. What a concept!