If you’ve been around SteveForTheDeaf for any length of time you will know this, I L.O.V.E this band. To me, they sound like the most perfect combination of still glowing welded metal, B-Movie FX, troublesome bubblegum and comic book heroics. Each song is a Cherub holding a switchblade behind it’s back while trying to pass as sober to a judge and tell a dirty joke to a nun all at the same time. The Wildhearts have the best back catalog of underappreciated would be mega hits of any band. They’re as magnificent as The Thermals, Orange Goblin and The Replacements combined when it comes to bands who are too good to be for everyone. They’re better than your favourite band. They’re better than anything. I like them that much.
To say I was excited to hear there would be a career spanning live double album released by their own label Round Records in 2020 would be an understatement. This band live is one of the purest filthy pleasures in life. Elsewhere in this countdown you can read about Ginger’s RSD release of B-Sides and curios completing a trilogy of Fan funded subscription singles made up as long players from the G.A.S.S era.
A pay up front chance to get in on the ground floor of 30 Year Itch was jumped at within Casa ForTheDeaf. The promise of ‘exclusive free gifts’ during the wait from pledge to delivery was only gravy on top of the already delicious looking main. I’d seen several of the comeback trail shows since the classic line up of Ginger, Danny, CJ and Ritch reformed. They started off revisiting past glories by playing 25th anniversary revues of the debut album. Then they got back into the studio and gave us another career highlight record packed with new material in Renaissance Men. After the album release, they hit the road again. The Wildhearts delivered a tour of shows that made the decades melt away. The mini album Diagnosis smashed more Victorian ice off of their legacy and gifted the fans an even deeper vein of fresh fried gold. To know this monumental tour had been caught on tape (or DAT at least) was great news. That the lightning feeling I’d felt in the Forum in February 2020, In Brixton in 2019 and in Koko the previous Christmas had been bottled made this a must buy.
The early release of four non album bonus tracks kept the anticipation high almost immediately after the campaign launched. First of all they came as downloads. Then in the weeks between paying upfront and the pressing plants delivering came the fans only CD EP in a cool ‘punk as’ monochrome and red gatefold. The EP has the legendary debut album highlight My Baby Is A Headfuck and the none more early doors release Nothing Ever Changes (But The Shoes) from 1992. Nothing Ever Changes was the song that seduced me into fandom all those years ago. It sounded amazing and vital on the new live EP. Like it had a new lease of life. So did Top of The World from the noughties riffathon The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed.
Other cool shit came in the post in this ‘showering of fans with gifts’ that went on throughout lockdown. A smiley bones Pin badge so incredibly rock and roll I dare not ever wear it, lest it get lost or nicked. T-Shirts and Gummy Bears, stickers and an early download of the record as a whole kept the fans sated while the pandemic pushed the arrival of the physical headliner product back to early December. But now it’s here. And it is beautiful.
As a set 30 Year Itch is almost The Best Of The Wildhearts. Except to do that justice it would need a third disc at least. As a live set though. You can’t find fault with it. There are tracks from all the major releases. There are latter day classics rubbing shoulders with the top 40 stuff. There are hidden gems reinvigorated and there is an encore of Caffeine Bomb, Love You ‘Til I Don’t and I Wanna Go Where The People Go so immense I’ve swerved my car about moshing while listening to it on the commute to work. Driver Awareness Course in the new year it is then.
Those hidden gems are where the album really powers up. The Jackson Whites from their last album before the reformation Chutzpah! sounds like a monster hit single. So too does the second single from the bands most notorious era the unmentionable Endless Nameless time.
Endless Nameless was seen by many as the band falling apart and pissing it all away after several years of growth and early success. The many are not always correct however. Endless Nameless is a brilliantly abrasive and desperate album full of tuneful pop hiding behind industrial heavy machinery breaking down. I’ve been telling people this for 20 years. The live take of Urge on 30 Year Itch proves I’ve been right all along.
I’m posting the two versions below. The 30 Year Itch Promo shows the song for what it is. The awkward, heavy, distorted original below shows it was always there. Hidden in plain sight.
Both Urge and the other track from Endless Nameless that made the cut for this live album, Anthem have grown in the hearts of the bands fans as an inclusive insiders song of belonging. Ginger’s way with a melody, the bands knack for mid air time changes and harmonic backing vocals turn many an old bitter rant at the state of things into a cathartic ‘in it together’ group session where everyone comes out wet with sweat and ‘In love with the rock and roll world’ without a hint of snark.
Now the album is actually out in the shops and there’s a video for Urge, it is getting a second chance to be a song The Wildhearts are known for not just a song Wildhearts fans know and love.
“OK, you were right, I mean it’s only fair. The ups gotta share with the downs”