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The Wildhearts - 'Diagnosis' EP Review


1. Diagnosis

2. God Damn

3. A Song About Drinking

4. The First Time

5. That’s My Girl


Sometimes you sit around forever waiting for a release from a band. Sometimes you think that they’ll never release anything ever again. Hey, who needs another live album or greatest hits to tie in with some vague anniversary any way? Then other times you’ll get completely shocked.

The Wildhearts are about to grace us with their second release this year. A few months ago they dropped “Renaissance Men”, and album people thought would never be released with the line up that involved what most people consider as the classic line up of the band with Ginger, CJ, Danny and Ritchie all involved. Critics loved it with a good few people mentioning that it would be appearing on their end of year lists. And now, as a special treat to us all, the band are releasing the six song “Diagnosis” EP.

The EP opens with ‘Diagnosis’ one of the stand out tracks from their new album. With someone like Ginger who’s very open about his issues with mental health its no surprise to find that the song deals with this subject and how we are not the sum of the condition. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, the song has become a mantra for me. On days when you are struggling to get through without giving in the words “you are not your diagnosis” can really help, especially when they’re grafted onto such a great sing along melody. It’s a reminder, it’s a rallying call, it’s an all out defiant statement that you can snarl in the face of depression.

The EP serves up melody and Punk attitude that the Wildhearts are renowned for. There’s nothing finer than the vocal harmonies that Ginger and CJ can produce together. ‘God Damn’ sounds like nitro fuelled sunshine and could quite easily have appeared on any of CJ’s solo albums but here it’s given an overhaul by the WH that’s akin to sticking a turbo engine into a Morris Minor; it goes like shit off a stick and careers around dangerously while hugging the confines of the song. ‘A Song About Drinking’ sees the band roar away from the start of the song with twelve thousand different riffs tucked into the body of the song. At under two and a half minutes it tears past you so fast that you barely notice that it has been and gone, meaning you’re quickly reaching for the skip back button to try and catch it’s slippery choruses while you can.

‘The First Time’ wastes no time into launch straight into the song’s chorus as soon as Ritchie has finished beating the hell out of drums in only a way that he can, nailing the beat to the song that allows it to both swing and bounce at exactly the same time (come on, give it a listen and don’t tell me you know exactly what I mean). He helps the song in so many ways dynamically. Its no head down blast to the conclusion. There’s subtle time signature shifts and breaks that help add to the seasoning.

If ‘Caffeine Bomb’ ever had a bastard cousin then it’s ‘That’s My Girl’, and it’s a great example of why the band’s fans have been so happy to hear this line up recording. They take a Ramone-esque stomp, cover it in something so Sweet (the band, y’dig?), fill it full of E numbers and dress it in grime and grit before letting it loose on an unsuspecting listener. The guitars bounce off each other perfectly and the drums before you hear it running underneath, that secret ingredient that’s been missing from the band for a while. As much as I love what Random Jon Poole and Scott Sorry brought to the band over the years there’s just something that Danny McCormack has that is just unique in regards to the sound of The Wildhearts. It’s the tone of his bass and the way he actually plays it that adds something just so damn special to the sound. Even through bands like The Yo-Yo’s and The Main Grains, Danny’s playing has been present, there is just something about hearing him play in this band that makes you realise how important he is to the overall sound.

After being lulled a little, the EP throws out a closing (sucker) punch in the shape and sound of ‘LOCAC’, a brutal sounding song that feels like we’re suddenly listening to the “Endless, Nameless” album again, an album that has split the band’s fan base for years by taking it’s songs and pushing them to an audio extreme. Here, the band seem to revisit the stop-start jerky rhythms and squealing guitars that carried EN along and allow Ginger to drag and distort a vocal part from a real extreme place. It’s kind of like the audio equivalent of some of the über violent films that the band’s frontman loves so much, and I’m sure that if they ever released a promo video to go with it there would be so much gore that people would be looking to try and ban it.

Who would have ever thought that a band such as The Wildhearts would still manage to keep themselves relevant not only to themselves and their fan base, but to the music industry on general. With this release you see why musicians like Frank Turner love them. You never knew what you would get with The Wildhearts and this EP shows that you can still never second guess exactly what they will release or play. They’re not a nostalgia act happy to play out a greatest hits set. The only rule book they know is their own and they obliterated that a long time ago.

God bless The Wildhearts!

Review - Scott Hamilton

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