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Album Review :The Wildhearts – The Renaissance Men

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Now I have to say my ears pricked up and my excitement levels went through the roof when I was asked to review the latest album from Geordie rockers The Wildhearts. I first came across Ginger when he was in the Quireboys in the 80’s and remember feeling distraught when it was announced he had left that band. Little was I to know that 30 years later, this talented and prolific songwriter and musician would still be a part of my musical life and I would get to tell people what I think of his current musical offering.

If you have never come across The WIldhearts before you are either very young or have been in hibernation since the end of the last decade. Formed in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1989, the band have released at least 8 studio albums prior to this one, along with a host of live albums and compilations, B-Sides collections etc etc.

The Rennaissance Men is however their first studio output since 2009’s Chutzpah!. It sees the classic Wildhearts line up of Ginger (Vocals / Guitar), CJ (Guitar / Vocals), Rich Battersby (Drums) and Danny McCormack (Bass / Vocals) back in the studio together for the first time in many many years after they reformed in 2018 to undertake a 25th Anniversary tour for the legendary Earth Vs The Wildhearts album from 1993.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhoa0E87h34&w=560&h=315]

Graphite Records must be mightily impressed with the 10 track album they are putting out. Coming in at around 38 minutes long, the album is a typical Wildhearts album, it’s noisy in places but also full of the hooks, harmonies and melodies we have come to expect from them. This is the Wildhearts of 2019 but they don’t appear to have forgotten about the Wildhearts from 1993. It pulls from all the classic ingredients that make a great Wildhearts album and throws them all in the pot to conjure up a beast of a release that will be so relevant in the world and times we now live in. There is hard rock in there, some fine punk rock, some awesome slabs of power pop and a bit of metal. Perfect!

Opening track “Dislocated” hits you like a wall of noise. It is angry, noisy, fast and loud! Straight away you want to and need to turn that stereo up to 11. From the moment Ginger opens the album up with “All the while the enemy were just around the corner” you know this is going to be an angst fuelled album with superb guitar riffs and more of those famed lyrics from the main man. It is quickly apparent that all the musicians are on top of their game, the guitars are loud and in your face, the drums powerful, the bass is thundering and the vocals fast, punky and also melodic and harmonious.

Track 2 is “Let em go”. This is a typical Wildhearts track, full of harmony and melody but equally punky and catchy and just gets you singing-a-long straight way. From here, we go into the albums title track, “The Renaissance Men”, which has a real jump and down beat and groove to it. It is infectious and just needs playing over and over again. As Ginger sings “So here we are again”, it made me think has it really

been 10 years, wow how time has flown and then “back in your face again”, well, if this is what I am going to have to listen to, then yes please, as much as you want.

“Fine Art of Deception” is a near three minute slab of punk inspired Wildhearts pop. A real gem of a track about relationship breakdowns and all the stuff you think and things that get said. The band reply to all of Ginger’s profound ‘statements’ with a cry of “Bullshit”. You can already imagine the crowd participation if this track is included in the sets on the tour this month and their festival appearances over the summer.

“Diagnosis” is next up. The guitars and drums build this song over the first minute or so into a real epic track. It reminded me in places of the way some of those early Quo tracks got built around a great riff before they exploded in your face, this does the same in my opinion. Ginger has not hidden the fact that he has had mental health issues and here he opens up about them and the way the NHS deal with people with those problems…..poorly is his answer! This is another angry, angst fuelled track where he opens up and gets it off his chest. He pulls no punches with lyrics like “I am not an animal, I am a human being” and “the system is fucked”. You can really feel the anger and the pain in the way the lyrics are written and sung. If there was ever any doubt that our loveable Geordie is one of the finest lyricists of his generation, then this heartfelt track should prove any doubters wrong.

Halfway through this album and for those listening to it on vinyl I wonder if they will want to turn it over or just keep playing those first five tracks over and over again, after all who could blame them. Track 6 and the first of Side B is “My Kinda Movie”. It hits you straight in the face with a swirling, electrifying guitar riff that just spins you round and round and round. Another aggressive, punky track, with guitars to the forefront and a massive, beefy drum sound, that is also full of those infamous harmonies, melodies and hooks that make up the perfect Wildheart songs, of which this is definitely one.

Time and tempo changes are something I love about this band, they do them so well and we get a great one here as “My Kinda Movie” ends and we go into “Little Flower”. This is a real throwback to the early Wildhearts, based around a chunky chugging guitar riff, a foot tapping beat and a kind of 60’s vibe with beautiful melodic harmonies to it. This is already one of my favourite tracks on the album, if not my favourite, the vocals are just to die for.

“Emergency (Fentanol Babylon)” is up next. After a mesmerising guitar and drum intro we are bombarded with fast flowing lyrics and some more of those superb time changes that enable the band to switch into full on melody mode. It is a fast, furious, punky, thrashy little number with a real handclapping chorus written about our generations reliance on prescription drugs and the drugs companies ‘Don’t give a shit’ attitude to the problems they are causing. As Ginger sings the line “Death and justice is just entertainment” his heartfelt anger really hits you. At about two and a half minutes long this really is a fast and furious rant at those big conglomerates and the issues they are leaving society to deal with. From there we are hit with another chugging Quo style riff on the brilliant “My Side of the Bed” with its’s dual vocals, melodies and Wildhearts style harmonies.

So now we have reached the last track, and what a track it is. From the moment Ginger opens the track with the line “One, Two, Fuck You” it is obvious the band have written a monumental track to finish this, shall we say, comeback album. “Pilo Erection” is built around a chugging, rip snorting, powerful riff. It has a classic chanty Wildhearts chorus, simple but so very very effective and as for the harmonious layered vocals, they are just superb and I think they have almost left the best to last. I definitely felt a tinge of sadness as the album finished, I want more, I need more, it is that good. Hopefully this rejuvenated line up will release another album together as the world needs the Wildhearts, especially when, after 30 years they are still writing music this good. Now that is something some much bigger artists could really learn from them.

I have played and played this album over the last week or so and have found it spellbinding. It really does leave you wanting more and I pray that it won’t be another 10 years before we get the next album from these Geordie legends. I now can’t wait to see the band at this years Ramblin Man Fair where they are special guests to the Darkness on the Friday night. If I get the chance I would like to shake the hands of Ginger, Danny, Rich and CJ and thank them for creating this gem of an album and releasing what should undoubtedly be one of the best albums of 2019.

Review by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic


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