(Photo by Iona Bateman)
I have to confess to being a SoulSeeker when I can't find the tracks I need. That's right, I illegally download music. Now, I consider that I do more to promote than to steal, all told, and I only do it when I have to, and that happened yesterday finding a Wildhearts B-side.
Because I was a fan of the Wildhearts sort of before my record-buying days. Or rather, during them, but when my good pal Nathan would sort me out with bundles of recorded tapes. One of these was a Wildhearts B-Sides, from whence came the rather wonderful Two Way Idiot Mirror (don't be deceived by the rather lacking-in-finesse title, it's a pretty song from a specifically ugly band). Another was Fishing For Luckies, and were it not for my misplacement of said tape, that album could still be on my All Time Top Five. It's generally recognised that the Wildhearts' wonderful thrash-punk debut, Earth Vs. The Wildhearts was their finest hour, with its blistering paeans to the seedy sides of everyday life, its inventive but monumental riffing, and it's overall Rawkness. But ace though it is, Fishing For Luckies - the band's third album, after the wider-scoped PHUQ - pips it for me. For a record which is essentially mid-nineties Britrock, at home with the Terrorvisions, the Ashs of this world, Fishing has such a grand vision, and although on first glance it has typical Wildhearts songs on there, wild, barrelling numbers like Red Light, Green Light or Moodswings & Roundabouts, they're slotted neatly and purposefully amongst the more far-reaching numbers like Soul Searching or Sky Babies.
The record kicks off with a song called Inglorious. In many ways, this one title sums up the whole band. While the Wildhearts put out at least three albums of an exceptionally high Rock quality, their internal affairs were, shall we say, complex at the least. When I was in sixth-form, I spent my free periods making an Angelfire website called the Wildhearts family tree, which taught me the basics of html and gave me an insight into the wacky world of Ginger and his cohorts. It got out of control. They say about The Fall that it could be Mark E Smith and his grandmother, it's still The Fall, and similarly the Wildhearts could have any line-up you like - if they've got David 'Ginger' Walls in the midst, that's the Wildhearts. A manic, hard-talking, hard-living frontman, he was the heart and soul of the group and although without Danny McCormack they'd be struggling, Ginger was the driving force. The songs were sleazy - dirty, grimy anthems about the squalor, the spit and drivel of everyday life forced through a Dogs D'Amour blender. By the band's final (pre-first-major-breakup) album, Endless Nameless, the sleaze had got to their heads and the record was an overdriven mess of speedballs and crack cocaine with nary a melody in site. But just before that, when the band dared to look over the garden wall into the wider world outside, when their breath was taken away by just how grand everything could be... that was Fishing For Luckies.
Inglorious. This week's Contrast Podcast is about songs which start off albums (I chose Bob Marley, mon), and Inglorious is maybe the least likely opening track you can imagine. A 9 minute assault on the senses and the sensibilities, it starts off like GnR fighting Metallica at their peaks, a picked riff slowly building the tense before the chugging drop-D makes itself known. Then comes maybe the definitive Wildhearts riff, rollicking and rolling, with juddering halts and frenetic startups, the syncopated Hendrix chords - all tastefully smothered by a battered distortion stompbox.
Ginger starts off, "someone out there really likes me," but it's sarcastic, it's grunted and snarled. The almost Pantera-like verse comes to an end with a disorientating "stop me, stop me" before the (now) glorious, melodic pre-chorus: "We could be anywhere, but you choose up there." The oi's, the punk heys, the epic harmonies. Then the chorus, "inglorious!" a chorus which isn't so much the climax of the verse as the means to get to the next verse, and the next.
It's a monster of a song, full of shifts and changes, dynamic, resourceful. It's starting to sound like a CV... Take the "middle eight," if you will... a phased, sweeping start degenerates into spat venom and curses before Ginger's guttural roar takes and the whole thing explodes.
"People tire so quickly of the glamorous," he says. It's true. And although in their own minds the Wildhearts were real rockstars, this is a day when real rockstars have to deal with the spectre of the anti-hero - Billy Corgan and Kurt Cobain have a lot to answer for, you know. But people don't tire, or at least I don't tire of something this grandiose, carried out with such conviction. Yeah it's nostalgic but it's also great.
The Wildhearts - Inglorious
Artist: The Wildhearts
Recommended: Fishing For Luckies (Japanese edition)
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
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Tags: Wildhearts; Ginger; rock; prog; Fishing For Luckies