On this, the latest of Ginger Wildheart’s available-for-24-hours Bandcamp albums, there’s a version of “Tom, Take The Money”. Never on an “official” Wildhearts record, it was written about their soundman, who (if I recall correctly) had been offered a job by Metallica (?).
I had reason to thank Tom a few years later. I’d gone to watch Ginger’s Silver Ginger 5 band, at Dudley’s long defunct JB’s and the singer had been upset with the sound. Storming off stage. Tom was in the crowd. Sorted everything to perfection, the gig resumed. And it was incendiary.
Another time I was at JB’s is also pertinent to this collection, too. The Wildhearts were due to go out in arenas supporting The Darkness (again, the exact timescales are sketchy) and they announced a warm up gig to play the set as a rehearsal. Or at least The Moodswingers did. That was always code for an undercover show, back then.
That night, they did the set, but they came back and played a shed load of “deep cuts”, stuff they never played and stuff we loved (the beauty in The Wildhearts was just as much in the b-sides as the albums for me).
Here, these days, as Ginger put it himself on Twitter the other week “selling music to the community” feels a bit like that. This is for us as much as him, and fuck everyone else, those who want “I Wanna Go Where The People Go” or stuff from the early days are going to be disappointed, for example, but these days, it doesn’t seem to be about them.
These days, its about a man, his music and those of us who love it, sharing it together.
That thing I wrote about b-sides? One called “Bang!” was always a favourite, and here, played as if he’s busking in your living room, the beauty of the words comes through: “you can’t see the candy for the razors” he offers on its first line, and this poetry is something that perhaps ginger never gets the credit he deserves for.
The skill in these is that he hasn’t fundamentally altered the song structure. Take “Thunderfuck” – it’s the same song it was “Endless, Nameless” – its last track, its chill out zone if you will – but it floats warmly here, welcoming you, rather than turning you away.
In another life you can imagine Ginger as a troubadour, just a battered acoustic and his songs travelling the backroads looking for stories. Certainly the country, folk feel to some of his work is right here on the take on “Jonesing for Jones”, the steel guitar makes it special.
I saw The Levellers last night, so maybe because they are fresh in my mind, there’s more than a hint of them in “The Only One”. Turned from something punk rock (sung by Scott Sorry on the album) to -this, that said, its still a rabble rouser.
“Remember The Days” brings things right up to date – from their final (?) album – its line about “we were bits of kids trying to sing like Jake” brings home how steeped in music Wildheart is, but it is “Inner City Overture” that perhaps most surprises. A perfectly lovely song on the album, here it takes on a life of its own, a message of hope, of unity maybe? Everywhere the good will come together? On the flip side – and there’s always a flip side – no one even heard their city dying….”.
“Nite Songs” – another b-side originally – was always one that was going to lend itself to this treatment, that said, “all alone in a room of friends” is a line of poignant beauty and perhaps more noticeable.
“It’s All Up To Me” – which is, if the mists of time aren’t tricking me – from the album that was out at the time of the “undercover” gig I mentioned, is another highlight. Fun, funky and bringing out a side to the song you hadn’t spotted maybe.
“Acoustic Albums Are Shit” concludes with one of the finest songs from The Wildhearts’ last return. “Fine Art Of Deception” stood out on “Renaissance Men” and does so here, stomping around, but with its added soul in the backing vocals.
Sometimes in reviews, you write things like “one for the fans” – but to say that here would be totally miss the point. This is a truly gifted artist sharing his vision for his songs with the like-minded folk he trusts. Acoustic albums might be shit (this one isn’t even properly acoustic) but this one definitely is not. Here you can join in as the songs breathe. And if sometimes on Wildhearts tunes the hooks are so good, you don’t always see the razors for the candy, as it were, this is not the case here.
Rating: as ever no Wildhearts album gets marks out of ten on this site. The music means more to me than triviality.