Ginger Wildheart - 'The Pessimist's Companion' Album Review
1. Why Aye (Oh You)
2. I Love You So Much I’m Leaving
3. In Reverse
4. You Will Let Me Down Again
5. No Regrets
7. A Better Love
8. The Pessimists Companion
9. Barbed Wire & Roses
10. I Don’t Wanna Work On This Song No More
11. I Wanna Be Yours
12. Sweet Wanderlust
13. There Is A House
15. May The Restless Find Peace
Aleutia: The Pessimist's Companion was 1st released back in 2018 and was available only on Ginger Wildhearts own label, Round Records. Not long after the album was released Ginger said there were plans to commercially release the album and so the wait began. Now nearly 4 years later 'The Pessimist's Companion' finally arrives as a new package containing a new mix, extra tracks and running order. Since the original release of 'The Pessimist's Companion Ginger' has written and recorded 2 Wildhearts albums, 1 Wildhearts EP, 1 solo album (Headzapopping), He’s also released 2 compilation albums and recorded another 2 albums with his band The Sinners which have yet to be released. Let’s face it Ginger is a writing machine who pretty much shits out top-quality songs as often as Boris Johnson lies (I’m telling it as it is ha ha).
It’s a tricky one when you have an album to review that has been re-mixed and has a different running order because if it’s an album you’ve listened to time and time again you expect things to be a certain way. The original release of 'The Pessimist's Companion' was probably one of the hardest albums emotionally I have listened to - take 'The Downward Spiral' by NIN and add a misery factor of 10. It was a beautifully brutal raw honest album that wore its heart on its sleeve. I actually haven’t listened to 'The Pessimist's Companion' in a while so I’m going to be able to come at it with a fairly fresh set of ears. I know some fans are upset that this album is being re-released with extra tracks as they feel ripped off having paid for the original release back in 2018 so I’m here to see if this extra release is worth shelling out for.
Rachel: I was initially quite apprehensive when Aleutia asked if I’d collaborate on the review of the commercial release of Ginger Wildheart’s 'The Pessimist’s Companion'. I’d loved the times Ginger went all Country on us before, “Ghost In The Tanglewood” was a brilliant album and I’d laughed and enjoyed 'Howling Willie' maybe a little more than I expected. So, in 2018 when the bleak tones of “The Pessimist’s Companion” first made themselves known to me, I was a little upset as it really wasn’t the same enjoyable experience, I’d had with Tanglewood. Now the subject matter for sure has its reasons for killing the enjoyment factor. It’s bleak, dark and brooding but there’s still fantastic songwriting and Ginger’s dulcet Geordie tones really do come alive when given the room to breathe in his countryesque numbers. I just found it maybe a little too on the dark side of melancholy, lets say I like my melancholy medium and this was probably a couple shades rawer than I could cope with as an album. So, fast forward 4 years and here’s the commercial release, remixed and given the full Dave Draper treatment for good effect, what could possibly go wrong? I shall have to listen and find out.
Aleutia: 'Wye Aye (Oh You)' – on the original version the album opened with 'May The Restless Find Peace' and it pretty much set the tone for the misery that was about to follow on this release 'The Pessimist's Companion' opens with 'Wye Aye (Oh You)' which sounds much more happy and upbeat than I remember it. Despite the subject matter being very personal and melancholy the new mix and time seem to have benefited the song as it’s not as oppressively heavy as before (or maybe it’s just I’m no longer a miserable fucker).
Rachel: Having read a little of what Aleutia wrote but having already formed some opinions, I’ll start by saying I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable of the previous version of this album. I too haven’t heard in in about two years, but the album as a whole was never a favourite, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually sat down and listened to it all in one go. So 'Wye Aye (Oh You)', well the first thing noticeable is the whole things sounds brighter and it lightens it up to almost sounding happy, well as happy as you can be when you’re finding someone to blame for your troubles! Yes, not bad for an opening track, I’m intrigued, dare I say that was even catchy.
Aleutia: 'I Love You So Much I’m Leaving' – There is a nice Country swing to this song and the Pedal Steel guitar really adds some depth to this song. The interplay between Ginger and Emily (if memory serves me right) really works well.
Rachel: I have compared and I can’t hear a huge amount of difference in this version and the original version. It’s got a good Country groove and the obligatory steel guitars. As this was a song about leaving someone, it’s true to form lyrically and not the happiest of songs but the upbeat nature made it a positive and it remains a good little number in my eyes.
Aleutia: 'In Reverse' – A song that was originally released as an extra track for 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' and then recorded for the original 'The Pessimist's Companion 'album. It’s another song that seems to have benefitted massively from this new mix as I’m hearing things I’d not really heard before.
Rachel: Another song I quite liked before as it sounds like a sad song from Tanglewood? Yes, thanks Aleutia I knew it lol. As I said I loved Tanglewood. From the opening keyboard/piano intro to the end, this is Ginger Wildheart’s softer side that really seems to suit his voice so well. It may be about being stuck in a bad relationship but it’s another solid song I still enjoy.
Aleutia: 'Ok… Time Out!' Where is the miserable album I remember that was so bleak? So far I’ve heard 3 songs and I’m yet to really hear the negativity of the past as the sequencing has so far changed the mood up massively and the dynamic of 'The Pessimist's Companion'.
'You Will Let Me Down Again' – Finally thought here we go here comes the negative but again it’s just not there and what we have is another upbeat Country song.
Rachel: I’m with you Aleutia, I don’t remember this album. This sounds upbeat and despite being about being let down, it’s not sounding very depressing at all. Yet at the same time I can’t really point to anything that has massively changed. It’s all just sounding brighter, fuller and it works so much better this time around.
Aleutia: 'No Regrets' – A song that was released on the 'Maggie' RSD release. This always felt like a bit of an oddity but now I get it as it’s clearly found its place on this album. Here we have a slow melancholic song with haunting pedal steel guitar (I don’t think I ever really appreciated how beautiful and haunting the Pedal Steel could be until Ginger used it on 'Ghost In The Tanglewood'). 'No Regrets' flows straight into 'Detachment'.
Rachel: Ah, here’s a sad one. I don’t remember this track being on Pessimist’s the first time around. Seems it was on the 'Maggie' RSD and I’ll trust Aleutia on that. This much melancholy on an album I can cope with, the steel guitar is haunting and as it’s about not regretting the passing of someone special, it’s a positive spin on a sad theme so I’ll let it have this one.
Aleutia: 'Detachment' – Finally a song I’ve not heard before. A good rocking Country song that totally fits the overall vibe of the album. I think Ginger has always done some of his best solo work when he’s blending his voice with a female singer and here it works perfect. The guitar solo on this is also rather tasty and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Rachel: This is new, but it’s another faster song that’s almost rocking in places, hell there’s even a distorted guitar solo! There’s a familiar feel that I’ve almost heard this melody somewhere before in the verses and once again, despite the sad, subject matter, I’m digging this number, let’s have another.
Aleutia: 'A Better Love' – On the previous album this was probably one of the more miserable highlights (sounds so stupid to write this) but again somethings different. There are slight differences in the songs with little tweaks on things like the drums. They aren’t massive but they do push the songs in slightly different directions which can seriously alter the overall mood of the song. The arrangement on this is slightly different as the song is now 30 seconds longer.
Rachel: Here's a song I remember better from the first time around. That’s because it’s a darn good tune. Slow but in a way the just opens up Ginger’s vocals in a way I adore and there’s the always present good female backing vocals. I am sure the bass is more thudding, the whole Draper effect of making it sound bigger than it really is works so well on a song like this. It’s about a positive relationship, even if it’s about the struggles of not having them close so again, this was not the darkest one the first time around and it shines well on this one.
Aleutia: 'The Pessimist's Companion' – The title track and probably my 2nd favourite song on the original album. Maybe it’s just my ears but this song feels a tiny bit more up tempo than before, the new mix has definitely opened things up.
Rachel: The title track is another I remember but those steel guitars in the first verse don’t sound so mournful and the whole thing just sounds lighter and more upbeat. It was a hauntingly good track the first time around, just lost in a dredge of other melancholy songs as an album it became melancholy overdrive. This time around the haunting is dialled down a fraction and the upbeat nature leaves the choruses catchy, and the song is able to raise a much-improved showing from the rest of the album to another highlight.
Aleutia: 'Barbed Wire & Roses' – A heavy keyboard drenched song that previously felt like a slow march towards an inevitable death now explodes with Country tinges. I love songs that have great dynamics and this song really uses them well. The vocal harmonies on this really add to the song.
Rachel: This track was a dark, slower number and whilst the pacing starts as slow, I must be starting to be able to cope with it all a bit better as the good dose of melancholy of this number doesn’t feel so down and heavy as it did previously.
Aleuita: 'I Don’t Wanna Work On This Song No More '– Right on cue we get a total change up of pace and mood with the catchy upbeat 'I Don’t Wanna Work On This Song No More' another song that previously appeared as a extra song on the 'Paying It Forward' EP. It’s almost impossible to not enjoy the guitar interplays during the solo and happy lyrics of this song. It’s safe to say this song has now found it’s home. The key change in this song lifts the overall feel of the album.
Rachel: Now this song feels misplaced on this album, it could almost be on 'Howling Willie' music wise and whilst it’s a song that’s about Ginger struggling with the pains of songwriting, the tempo and almost cheekiness of the lyrical content makes this an uplifting number.
Aleutia: 'I Wanna Be Yours' – Instead of going back to the melancholic songs we have another upbeat song that breaks the mood of the album and along with 'I Don’t Wanna Work On This Song No More' adds dare I say it a ray of sunshine.
Rachel: Following from the funny at times lyrical content from the previous number, this one keeps the upbeat nature going. Any song that can say, “I want to be your vacuum cleaner”, whilst never being about anything rude has to be a bit tongue in cheek and this is about wanting to be the person your dream partner would want, when you probably are the last person they’d want in reality. There didn’t really appear to be much joy from memory in the album’s first incarnation, so this new number is adding to the already lighter, more upbeat renditions of a collection of such sad songs.
Aleutia: 'Sweet Wanderlust' – An album highlight (do yourself a favour and listen to it) I can’t seem to say enough positive things about how much this remix of 'The Pessimist's Companion' has opened the album up.
Rachel: Ok, now I am making myself sound like a liar by saying I didn’t like Pessimist’s before. This is Ginger at his best and an instant catch Geordie Country hit if ever you’ve heard one. Upbeat and not dragged down by its subject matter. This song would not feel out of place on any number of Ginger Wildheart solo albums and be a memorable entity on any one of them.
Aleutia: 'There Is A House' – The most haunting song Ginger has ever wrote and not an easy listen but it is the highlight of the album. The drums on this are fucking huge and really pound the song along. The solo is still as atmospheric as it ever was. 'There Is A House' previously closed 'The Pessimist's Companion' and to be honest on the previous release there really wasn’t anywhere else to go after the emotional punch in the face of it so it’s gonna be interesting to see how it feels in its new place in the running order.
Rachel: Ok, here’s the ever so uncheery album closer from 2018. It’s not a song that pulls any punches, in fact it hit so hard the first time around that by the time you had sat through the other cheery tunes, this one just puts you in a dark place, or at least that was my experience the first time around. Now with the new songs and a different place in the running order it just doesn’t sound as bleak. It’s probably the mix too but although it’s still a pretty haunting song, it really works well and I agree with Aleutia it’s a highlight (or should that be lowlight given the context here?) If you have not heard it there’s no better reason to buy this album. I won’t give any more away other than say It’s a very emotive song, and if based on Ginger’s real experiences then it’s a very raw, harrowing and brave song to write.
Aleutia: 'Stalemate' – Fuck, after not listening to this album or 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' and it’s B-sides for ages I’d forgotten about this gem of a song. Well now I know how you follow up 'There Is A House,' you put 'Stalemate' behind it and blow all the misery of the previous song away in a short blast of just over 2 minutes.
Rachel: Ok, now I expect the end and I’m not sure what to get. What I do get is something upbeat to blow away the evil spirits that crept in from visiting whatever house Ginger took us to last. This was a new song for me and one that sure as hell was a great tonic to let me enjoy the track and be positive about what’s going to come next and close the album.
Aleutia: 'May The Restless Find Peace' – The song that previously opened 'The Pessimist's Companion' now closes the album and if I’m honest it now makes more sense in its new position on the album. Before it set the tone for the self-confessional misery that was about to follow, it now feels somewhat like a proper album closer and on the songs subject matter it almost feels like it’s turned 180 degrees to offer hope whereas before there was despair.
Rachel: Yes, now I’m with you Aleutia, this opened the album before and after everything we’ve just heard, I can’t think of a better song either to close it. Instead of opening us to an album of depression, it reminds us of the harrowing and depressing themes we’ve touched in its hauntingly beautiful way and leaves us satisfied we’ve had just about enough (for now).
Aleutia: So, is the new version of 'The Pessimist's Companion' worth shelling out for again if you’ve already bought it? Well, I’m going to buy it again so what do you think?
The original 'The Pessimist's Companion' was an album so bleak and miserable that it felt like walls were closing in on you and definitely wasn’t an album all fans enjoyed. The new updated version is a completely different beast. Lyrically nothing’s changed but the new mix has really opened the album up and given it a breath of fresh air (almost like walking out of a dark cave into a ray of sunshine for the first time in months). A bad mix or bad sequencing can make or break an album and in its previous incarnation 'The Pessimist's Companion' was a good but difficult listen. I never felt there was anything specifically wrong with the original version, but after hearing this, I really do get why it needed this remix (and not in the dance sense). Now you can file it under a great listen that isn’t weighed down by the subject matter – or maybe I’m just not in that negative frame of mind I was in 2018 when it originally dropped.
If you like something that’s got a dark Country edge to it and music that isn’t mainstream then go check this collection of songs out because often there is beauty to be found in some of life’s darkest moments.
Rachel: So, wow, I got to the end, and it wasn’t the daunting experience I feared. I can’t place it, every single song from the first release is here, all of them sound musically unchanged but there’s a brightness this time around and I think the running order makes a huge difference. You don’t ever feel bombarded by depressive sounding songs, and even the really depressing songs aren’t anywhere near as depressive as I remember this time around. It’s definitely going to be an album I listen to a few times more to really appreciate all it has to offer.
I feel I gave the original too much criticism for being too depressing and failed to really hear what Ginger was singing about. I understand myself the subjects he sings about. There won’t be many out there today who haven’t been stalked by a certain black dog at some point, so perhaps it all should have resonated more the first time around. Then again, maybe the reason I found it all so depressing was because it was resonating too much? 😉. All I can say is that the remix, Dave Draper treatment, reordering and sprinkling of new songs makes the album an altogether different beast. It’s never going to make you happy and jumping with joy, but I must say, I really enjoyed it.
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Review - Aleutia & Rachel