The intro to the track that opens the finest album of 2021 is a barrage of heavy blunt chords. It’s not for the faint hearted. If you’re a Wildhearts aficionado you’ll be heartened to hear it sounds like it’s from the Endless Nameless era. Abrasive and intentionally disruptive you survive the first salvo only to be rewarded with a tone that can be described as Meatloafian… Or perhaps the correct term is Steinmanesque. So we’re 20 seconds into my personal favourite record of 2021 and we’ve got Industrial, metal, Albini era Nirvana Meatloaf vibes. Just you wait until the vocals kick in.
“It was a forgettable day, I remember it well, ‘cos of the music in the lobby of the Easy Hotel, some kid was singing that he couldn’t make it all by himself, I said “So this lad is an expert? he sounds about twelve”, he said a man needs a woman at the end of the day, what a moronic crock of shit for anybody to say”
Challenging from the off. Catchy as all hell though. The Wildhearts position themselves as representatives of the unrepresented. Queer, weird, pissed off or dejected? You too can be a Wildheart.
“Take ’em in fixed then fuck ’em back up again, on off, on off, can’t agree on anything”
The teeth of these love songs are sharp. Not love bite hickey sharp. Vagina dentata sharp. there’s a dozen moods, time changes and melodies in this opening track. It’s all over in under five minute too. The chanted title in the tale like a terrace chant.
“The one about lowering expectations, holding tight in desperation, this ain’t a movie, more like a eulogy, 21st century, 21st century, 21st century Love Songs!”
The second track is yer Still Little Fingers lauding debut preview single Remember These Days. It fits the album perfectly between the title track and Devil spit thrash punk single Splitter. What a trilogy of and opening act. Splitters’ hook line of “I’m not kissing a person I’m kissing a memory” way more tender and reflective than the feral riff snapping at your ears would have you believe.
Institutional Submission becomes one of those songs in which the title is the riff very quickly up in the mind palace. Even though it’s got an “ized” in it. “In-Stit-Utional-Ized-Sub-Mission!” Well one of the riffs that is. Once you’ve heard the album a few times it becomes impossible to read the two words without them being to the tune. “Ized” and all. This tracks pretty Phuq like if you’re speaking to the aficionados again. Complex and full of varied textures and horrified screaming. It finds an anthemic exit strategy and a few washes of heavy psych. The genius of rhyming “A rat in desperation” with “Is just a cunt by association” speaks to the polarised times were living through “left or right, black or white, it’s us or them, it wrong or right” quite.
Latter day Wildhearts high watermark Sleepaway we’ve covered before. It really is one of the best things they’ve ever done. I stand by everything I said about it back then. Here there’s more to it. The track now comes book-ended with “a little mouse fart” at the front and a philosophical interlude from Ginger in the tail. In what I can only assume is a dream recalled conversation with Maggie his dog.
“As the dog looked up at the aeroplane, and I laughed at his obvious confusion, she turned to me and said… fish don’t know they’re in water“
I’ts a jolting end to a track that pulls you up just in time for You Do You. After a grandiose riff intro this one is like a pop punk run through of a more famous song melodically, except it’s not, it’s all original. Lyrically it is acknowledging 2021 stuff like over sharing at the gym, internet researchers, idiotic anti-science conclusions and lockdown fatigue. The catchy “Days sent to try us and in the middle of a virus, why would anybody wanna seem pious?”is one thing, it also adds more philosophical musings on Michael Phelps being compared to a dolphin before it stops dead like it ran into a wall.
Second single Sort Your Fucking Shit Out finds it’s place in the middle of side two. Still magnificently empowering and blunt. The missing preview track finally revealed itself to me in the beginning of the albums final act. Directions is another vicious Dawg of a song. With a fluffy belly to rub. It’s specifically about the pandemic and how terribly things have been managed by the Donkeys in charge. It might also be about how difficult it has been for musicians to plan their lives during lockdown but clearly it’s mostly about what a terrible prime minister Boris Johnson is and why his crooked cronies should be rightfully terrified of what comes next.
The final act is well under way by track nine. A Physical Exorcism has horror film architecture and yet upon scrutiny seems to be an ode to the positive benefits of exercise for ones mental health. It’s fast and furious like running your demons into the ground is an act of noble vengeance. The hand-break turn breakdown of “The best advice that I ever got was when you wanna stop, don’t stop” leads back into a victorious chorus in which you picture the dark shadows vanquished.
Album closer My Head Wants Me Dead is the sort of thing the band do best. For them and for their fans. A huge cathartic screamo anthem about fighting the dark parts of your own psyche that’s full of time changes, hooks and celebration. The opening verse is reminiscent of early single Just In Lust the crowning glory solo at the end has shades of Time from Ginger’s epic 555% in tone, but it’s entirely all its own thing. 21st Century Love Songs is really is all their best bits brought together in a blender of magnificent punk, metal, pop and furious joy. The best live band in the UK just made the best studio album of the year. And hit higher in the charts then at any point in their 30 year career so far. All Is Love. Songs!