Sometimes it’s pretty handy being a magazine in cyberspace without the confines of physical offices. At least it is when you have bands like The Wildhearts around, who, in a now infamous incident, once took exception to a review from a well-known rock weekly and exacted revenge by walking into their offices and trashing the place.
If this sounds like I’m shaping myself up to give this – incredibly, The Wildhearts’ first official live album – a slating, then actually you’d be wrong, although I will get my caveats out of the way pronto.
On the one hand, a double CD recorded at different venues throughout the year is a welcome, value-for-money release for diehard fans of one of the UK’s most enduringly popular hard rock groups of the last 10 years.
However, the key word is “diehard”, because the casual fan, or someone who has seen The Wildhearts live several times and likes a fair few of their songs, but not enough to want to have Ginger’s babies (that’d be me then), is pretty unlikely to shell out their hard-earned quid on this.
Having said that, this is better than the majority of live albums you’ll come across. When you’ve toured every toilet and mid-sized venue in the West as many times as Ginger & co have, you’re bound to end up pretty tight live, and the 20 songs here are performed with such professionalism and quality to almost make this package worth seeking out as a “Best Of”.
All the Wildhearts’ fans’ favourites are here, bounding along in their greasy pop-metal kinda way. There’s the Senseless Things scuzz-rock of Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes; the hurtling Motörhead tribute that is Suckerpunch; the heavy riff-fest of Caprice; the harmony-heavy rush of I Wanna Go Where The People Go; the anthemic radio rock hit that never was (Jonesing For Jones); and more recent, poppier fare such as Someone That Won’t Let Me Go.
With the exception of the very cool, punk cover of Where Everybody Knows Your Name (aka the theme tune from Cheers), there are no surprises – just good time, loud-but-very-tuneful rock reproduced faithfully, but with enough rough around the edges to remind you that this is very much a live document. And that’s not a criticism by the way – it’s more than a little irritating when live albums are overdubbed and have the crowd participation airbrushed out to the extent that they are barely discernible from the studio versions.
By the end of the second CD, I was left thinking that The Wildhearts really could have made it bigger than they did, particularly in the US where chorus-centric heaviosity is usually appreciated more than it is here in the UK.
Still, having recently toured the US with The Darkness and had ignorant American DJs proclaiming them to be the best new British band since, erm, The Darkness, perhaps The Wildhearts will have the last laugh yet. And a good deal fewer journalists to get even with…