I have to start this review by saying it was actually very hard for me to write. As a massive fan of Mr Wildheart I really wanted to be objective about this – after all if we all liked the same music you’d never argue with your friends or be able to get gig tickets right? So when this little gem of an album fell into my hands I was thinking “professional, honest, truthful, impersonal”. Then I gave it a listen. Oh boy. Those of you familiar with Ginger’s work will know that the mantra for his work is always “expect the unexpected” and that’s certainly the case here.
The album was born out of a unique project that ran for 12 months last year, consisting of a pledge-type campaign for fans called GASS that, instead of getting them a single album at the end of it, gave them access to several new tracks each month along with other collectible items. A fan-club for the digital age if you will, hence the title of this album which is a “best-of” collection of some of those songs.
It opens with “Down The Dip” which is my personal favourite track. If there is a typical Ginger song this one is probably it. There is a driving beat, there are harmony vocals, there are strong guitar riffs, there are time changes, there’s a bit of spoken-word singing. Probably the most Wildhearts-y song, this one just gets your body parts moving even if you don’t want them to!
That’s followed by “Honour”, a more poppy song that has a distinct Cheap Trick feel to it to these ears. I can see this one being a great live favourite.
“El Mundo” has more than a passing nod to the Beatles, and is another bouncy pop-rock epic. I really don’t understand why this song is not played on mainstream radio and climbing all over the charts, it baffles me how something this good can be so totally ignored by such a large part of the population.
“The Last Day of Summer” is a slower acoustic number with a country vibe. It’s laid-back and hummable, and makes me want a picnic blanket and a glass of Pimms. And maybe a horse and a cowboy hat!
In contrast “Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now” goes back to Ginger’s harder, rockier sound and also showcases his sense of humour as it’s a stream-of conciousness rant about his journey through the music industry. Sadly Henry declined to appear on the track, but I think “What Would Henry Rollins Do” could become a mantra for all of us to live our lives by.
We’re back to the country feel for “The Pendine Incident”, a song which contains Ginger’s sunscreen moment as he tells us not to buy underwear too tight!
“Do You” takes us back to the pop-rock sound again, and is a lovely upbeat song about, well, depression and suicide – and why not? This is a subject that Mr W can write about with some authority, and it’s songs like this that can often help those of us who have been cornered by the black dog to find our way back to ourselves.
“If You Find Yourself In London Town” is a cautionary tale for the innocent, told with a nice acoustic riff.
That country vibe raises its head again for “Toxins and Tea”, another song with a happy tune but much darker lyrics. Apart from airing his opinion of Russell Brand of course, which I wholeheartedly agree with!
“No-one Smiled At Me Today” starts with a strong guitar sound interwoven with what sounds like a hammond organ, and is another “typical” Ginger song – singalong, toe-tapping smiley music.
With “Ostracide” Ginger goes back to a heavier sound again, I can see this one being popular with those who still think he should never have moved on from the Wildhearts. It’s a real thump-a-long guitar-driven epic but with the usual thoughtful lyrics that you only pick up on after a few listens.
Final track “Don’t Lose Your Tail Girl” puts me in mind of the late great John Lennon as it starts and then (remember I said to expect the unexpected) morphs into an almost disco beat before just going totally weird on you. It then goes in for the kill – harder! Faster! Louder! before slowing back down to being a laid-back groove again.
All in all I think this album, although bound to be loved by long-term fans, is also a pretty good option for a new listener who wants to know what Ginger’s music is all about. No two tracks the same in style or lyrical content, lyrics from the thoughtful to the absurd and a bit of something for everyone.
The album is available now in various formats, including vinyl. For more information visit http://www.gingerwildheart.net/2016/02/13/year-of-the-fanclub-out-now/