The Wildhearts - Must Be Destroyed
Ten odd years or so ago The Wildhearts were one of Britain’s most promising and gifted rock acts. All signs were pointing towards mega-stardom, yet despite having an undisputedly talented songwriter in vocalist/guitarist Ginger (the guy was doing irony long before Robbie Williams made it a pop cliché) it never quite took off. They had plenty of critical acclaim, they had a fairly huge fan base of loyal rockers and the occasional indie freak, but everyone else was too busy arguing over which band was better between Blur and Oasis to stop and take notice. In fact I can remember hearing many a rant by John Peel perplexed by the British publics embracing of all things Brit Pop yet remaining completely oblivious to Brit Rock!.
Their lack of mainstream success wasn’t helped by being at times a little too rock and roll for their own good. Kerrang magazine who had been championing the band from the very beginning got a wake up call when Ginger arrived at their office and allegedly proceeded to smash up everything in sight from desks to laptops and PC’s causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. The justification for his actions was that the magazine published an inaccurate article regarding his band in the previous issue. It kind of makes Liam and Noel’s childish on stage squabbles seem rather tame in comparison. Speaking of which, Liam Gallagher got a shock when Ginger decided to swagger his way into the Oasis dressing room at the Top of the Pops studio nearly triggering a full blown fight. This was all highly entertaining to anyone who longed for an edgier alternative to Jarvis Cocker, but the unpredictable nature of the band made them both a commodity and a nightmare for the record label.
Dropped by EastWest The Wildhearts were quickly scooped up by Mushroom Records only to find themselves out of favour yet again after a widely publicised disagreement over record distribution which resulted in the band calling for a boycott of their own release’s. Inevitably self destruction followed with band members walking out, their replacements sodding off to Japan without notice and errr Endless Nameless which turned out to be the closest one can get to an audio self-portrait, be it one housed in a smashed frame.
Guitarist CJ moved on in the form of Honeycrack knocking out some great pop-rock tunes along the way. Likewise with bass player Danny McCormack in his band The Yo-Yos. Ginger has spent the years since the split doing a little of everything – from the dirt-glam sound of SuperS**t666, the damn right bizarre Clam Abuse (a project which was formed out of a need for quick cash to allegedly avoid a knee capping or something equally unpleasant and features a song about Geri Halliwell of all people), and SilverGinger5 – a band that managed to recreate 4 decades of rock and roll music in the space of one album. SilverGinger5 was supposed to provide a ticket to major rock stardom but let down by industry backing and unable to escape the trappings of The Wildhearts with many fans adopting them as the ‘next best thing to’ rather then a totally separate new band, mainstream success was once again elusive – Although Ginger hasn’t dismantled SilverGinger5 completely and you can expect a 2nd album in the not to distant future.
...and now some 8 years later The Wildhearts are back once again complete with the original line up. It almost sounds too good to be true, so good in fact that you can’t help but be a tad cynical. SilverGinger5 wasn’t making any major headway, rock music is fashionable again and you’ve gotta strike while the irons hot, right ?. Well I’m happy to let the music do the talking and that comes in the form of Must Be Destroyed on Gut Records.
The first thing you immediately pick up on after the Endless Nameless remnant opening of Nexus Icon is just how damn fluffy the remaining 30 minutes are set to be (that’s all you get folks). Gone are the metal-pop fusion’s mixed with the occasional nod to 80’s Metallica that were once a vital part of The Wildhearts dress code. Instead we have pop melody overkill and cherry flavoured bubble gum. Get Your Grove On plays with the idea of being metal but ends up sounding more like a glaring obligatory after thought to please older fans and is far to short to ever really get excited over.
It may sound like I’m a little under whelmed by Must be Destroyed but that’s not really accurate, this is just an initial impression. After more than a dozen spins inside the CD player you start to hear it not as a 4th Wildhearts album but more as a 1st album by a revitalised Wildhearts minus the debauchery.
Must Be Destroyed is not so much a collective album, more a collection of radio friendly hit singles - It’s more Top of the World than Greetings from Sh*tsville. The opening of Someone That Won’t Let Me Go sounds carefully marketed enough to pass as a Good Charlotte single, but you still can’t deny the quality of those feel good contagious hooks roped within. One Love, One Life, One Girl, with all it’s sugar and sweetness would make even the most disillusioned believe that there is such a thing called love and So into You sounds like a SilverGinger5 track which found itself on the wrong album (which isn’t a bad thing).
It’s difficult to pin down the specifics of each song because it’s all very linear, almost hegemonic pop richness. There’s little opportunity for stand out tracks when it’s all melody after melody with the exception of Out From the Inside which raises above the surface by actually sounding like an old Wildhearts song (how telling that it's the only song written purely by CJ), but then nothing comes close to disappointing either. Any criticisms of Must Be Destroyed isn’t so much of what there is but more of what there isn’t – 32 minutes is not an album it’s a bloody EP!. It could do with a little fleshing out, a little diversity, a change in pace. Where’s the dynamics so brilliantly executed in the likes of News of the World, Nita Nitro, and the 11 minute epic Sky Babies ?. More importantly where’s Stormy in the North, Karma in the South ?. The songs we have are great no doubt about it, but this hit maker mentality is something I associate more with a Brit band like Feeder than The Wildhearts.
It really is a tough one to call, Wildhearts fans are going to be just as divided over Must Be Destroyed as they were over Endless Nameless. You could literally give this latest offering a 10 for it’s melody soaked excellence, or a 1 if you believe the band are out to grab a free pay cheque. It lacks some of the youthful exuberance of Earth Vs, the sheer creativity of P.H.U.Q, and the wild experimentation of Endless Nameless. It does however contain a neat little collection of sing along choruses and highly infectious pop-rock - maybe a little too sweet for some, but still worthy of a place in most rock fans CD collection. Let's just hope The Wildhearts stretch their creativity a bit more next time round.
Oh and look out for a guest appearence by Justin ‘The Darkness’ Hawkins.