Review: Ginger Wildheart – 'Year Of The Fan Club'

I remember, back in the day, rehearsing in the same studios as Ginger Wildheart, just after he split from the Quireboys. We were witness to the trials and tribulations of him trying to find a singer that fitted his vision of what the Wildhearts should be. The eventual decision of Ginger to take on the vocal duties himself was a brave one, and I always had admiration for the hard work and dedication he put in in order to pull it off. The Wildhearts were a phenomenon at the time for their passion and energy on stage, so much so that I heard tales of their bass player throwing up, after the first London gig, from his stage exertions.

The latest offering from Ginger comes off the back of his fan club, G.A.S.S (Ginger Associated Secret Society), where membership gets you access to a three track single every month for a year, resulting in 36 tracks. There are other goodies that come with membership as well as access to the man himself. In this album we have twelve of those 36 tracks which are being let loose on the general public.

I lost touch with Ginger’s exploits a few years ago and wasn’t sure what to expect from a present day Ginger album. Some of the twelve tracks come as no surprise, rocking out with usual abandon, but there are some that came at me from the blind side and show the more autobiographical side to his thoughts and lyrics. I can hear hints of bands like The Kinks, The Levellers, The WonderStuff, and even The Beatles… as well as Deff Leppard through to Led Zep.

The opener takes me straight back to those heady London days in Ladbroke Grove. ‘Down The Dip’ has all the hallmarks, stonking guitars and vocal harmonies of old, if more polished than before. The stacatto guitar opening had me thinking Def Leppard, but when the bass and drums blast you in the face, you know you are listening to Mr Wildheart. Powerful and dynamic, with vocal harmonies that reminded me of the Beatles. A track giving us everything from groove, to melody, to raw power.

The theme continues with ‘Honour’, a duet with Courtney Love. The superb guitar riff brings us in and really gets stuck in the head. The verse melody really, REALLY, reminds me of ‘Lola’ by the Kinks but the chorus is all Ginger, and catchy as hell. The vocals are tight and the harmonies with Ms Love work well to give us another memorable chorus. A strongly crafted rock track with the sole purpose of getting you moving. Courtney Love’s and Ginger’s voices work extremely well together, and having seen the live video of them performing this track, the chemistry between them is obvious.

Over the next couple of tracks we are led on a slightly different journey. ‘Beatle-esque folk rock’, I am not sure where to place ‘El Mundo (Slow Fatigue)’. It goes from ‘Sgt. Pepper’ to distorted thrash metal and back again. Sounds bizarre, I know, but somehow it works. Knowing that Ginger cancelled a lot of gigs in 2015 due to depression, I feel that we are being given an insight into his state of mind and with lines like ‘Still a slow death is catching up on me‘ it doesn’t take much imagination to guess where he is coming from, and yet he manages to produce material such as this.

‘Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now’ brings us right back to kick ass rock ‘n’ roll, and shows Ginger’s fighting spirit, as he really has a go at all those that have tried to put him down. I would love to know if the letter to Henry Rollins is for real, but it was a light hearted moment in an otherwise angry track. A headbanging full on rock track.

A highpoint on the album for me was ‘If You Find Yourself In London Town’, another seemingly autobiographical track, giving an account of living in London as a young aspiring rock star. This is an acoustic folk song, and for anyone who made the move to London as a youngster, rings so true.

Keep your heart at home and in the photographs you carry, and leave some breadcrumbs down, from home to London town

that one line says it all. ‘Toxins And Tea’ carries on the acoustic ‘folky’ flavour, but with a rebellious character that builds to an almost frantic crescendo. The songcraft involved to create these two tracks is something I can appreciate and revel in. Songs that are planted firmly in Ginger’s northern roots, with hints of coal mining brass bands and a rebel sentiment.

This has been a journey, from elation to depression, rock to folk. Stories of life as seen through someone else’s eyes. I was sceptical to begin with, but I have been well and truly swayed. There is a breadth and depth within these twelve tracks that make me very curious as to what the other 24 have in store. If someone asked me to categorise this album, I would say why? I don’t think the man wants to be categorised, hence the eclectic styles and influences to be found within these twelve tracks. A Ginger fan or not, you have got to admire his songwriting skills. This may not be for everyone, but that he manages to craft tracks that take you on a journey such as this, be it autobiographical or just an out an out rocker, is a skill not many possess.

The G*A*S*S club is still very much available for subscription HERE

Reviewer Simon Larkin

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