The Wildhearts - '21st Century Love Songs' Album Review
1. 21st Century Love Songs
2. Remember These Days
4. Institutional Submission
6. You Do You
7. Sort Your Fucking Shit Out
9. A Physical Exorcism
10. My Head Wants Me Dead
Here at 3 Songs & Out we make no secret of the fact that we fucking love The Wildhearts. Some of us are personal friends with the band but all of us have a history with the guys in one way or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re relatively new to The Wildhearts music or someone who was there for “Earth VS…” way back in 1993 the reaction is usually the same. You want to hear anything new and you want it yesterday, not today.
So, with that in mind the team hit upon the rather brilliant (depending on who’s opinion you ask) idea of sharing the review for the new album. This in theory will stop fighting and grudges being held over who gets to review the album as, let’s be honest, there are a few here that really want to review it (there was talk of settling this all in a steel cage but social distancing worries put pay to that). What we’re going to do is each of us is going to have our say on a song or two from the said album and the each sum up the album in a few words at the end of the review. We reckon this will give you the reader a better overall opinion of the album as opposed to say one person.
Our team for this is: Aleutia, Scott, Michael, Vikki & Gerald so now you know the guilty parties let’s get to it shall we?
01: 21st Century Love Songs – Gerald: This has been a grower for me which is strange for an album opener by The Wildhearts, but it has clicked now. It throws some nice curveballs in here and settles into a cool groove during the verses. The break after the second chorus comes down like a sledgehammer and recalls the likes of ‘Everlone’ and ‘Inglorious.’ Even though the song is almost 5 minutes, I wish it had another minute or two added to it, which is something I noticed me thinking on several songs.
02: Remember These Days – Scott: ‘Remember These Days’ is like a swift repeated (sucker)punch to the face. Guitars and drums punctuate the rallying call of the song’s opening with Ginger screaming “I miss this like I miss my dead friends” at us. It’s a song of reminiscence but also it reminds us that we have to live in the moment. The guitar tones are sharp, verging on Punk, abrasive like when you rub an open wound to remind yourself you’re still breathing. There’s melody there too with the bridge sections revealing a smoother sound. When Ginger mentioned that they were trying to bring in the experimentation of 'P.H.U.Q.' he forget to mention that they were also taking some of the shock and awe approach of “Endless Nameless”. It’s not as brutal as that but it’s certainly not opting for a softer approach.
03: Splitter – Vikki: It's difficult to know where to begin with this track. Immediately my mind goes to how massive it will sound live, and being able to imagine a full crowd shouting 'Splitter' back at the band gives me shivers. It is everything a fan could want from a track by The Wildhearts, riffs galore and the perfect harmonies we all know and love. Ginger said in an interview that whilst “Renaissance Men” was akin to “Earth Vs”, “21st Century Love Songs” is akin to “P.H.U.Q.”; giving the band the freedom to stretch the creative muscles and show exactly what they're capable of. I could not agree more.
04: Institutional Submission – Michael: Before I even talk about the song, what a great title. As you might expect from a song called ‘Institutional Submission’, this song is inherently angry which is something very apt after the last couple of years we’ve all lived through! With the opening shouts of “We’ve been here before, we’ve seen it before”, you know that this song is tapping into the rage that the world has fuelled Ginger with, and it’s amazing that he can turn it into a song that is so good! Like a lot of the rest of the album, this song has more sections than any “normal” song ever has, and it’s so much the better for it. Just when you think you have a handle on where it’s going, it goes somewhere new. It feels like at least three different songs compressed together into one 5 and a half minute odyssey.
05: Sleepaway – Aleutia: If ‘Sleepaway’ isn’t a live favourite by the end of the upcoming tour then The Wildhearts fans need shooting. This song is set up perfectly for some good old call & response between band and fans. ‘Sleepaway’ has it all & probably sums up masses of Gingers record collection in just over 5 minutes – how the hell does he do it? Most bands would kill to one or two of the riffs in this song during a lifetime but this almost casually tosses them away in droves. It’s easy to picture Ginger pulling Status Quo moves on stage with a huge grin on his face at moments during ‘Sleepaway’. If ever there was a song that needs a live video to be shot with the fans singing back to the band then this is it (make it happen during your shows in December when everyone really knows the songs).
06: You Do You – Vikki: Again, it is classic Wildhearts. It's jam packed with huge multi-part vocals, smashing guitars and pounding drums that all gel together perfectly. It is another track that will convert perfectly to the live scene, and is bound to drive the crowds wild. Absolutely outstanding, there's no other words that can convey just how fantastic this track is.
07: Sort Your Fucking Shit Out – Gerald: This was my least favourite of the 3 early songs that were released, even though I love it when it lets loose. I am trying to figure out how I want to sing along to the verses because I feel strange saying David (Ginger’s original first name). I understand the reference obviously but wish Ginger had used something more universal as we all need to sort our fucking shit out at times. The slow build in the song leading up to the chorus makes the chorus even more powerful with the riff in the song even gaining more power over the final minute.
08: Directions – Scott: A slinky riff underpins ‘Directions’ while Danny and Ritch provide that unmistakable sound that only the Wildhearts rhythm section can create. The guitars feel a little less pushed to the front here, working in tandem to give us extended rhythmic workouts that they first introduced back on “Mondo-A-Kimbo-A-Go-Go”. There’s more tempo changes here than most bands manage in a whole career as if the entire band have been wired into the same elctro-shock therapy with some twisted genius flicking the switch every few seconds.
09: A Physical Exorcism – Michael: While many of the songs on this album are structured in a less-straightforward fashion than many songs (to great effect and success), ‘A Physical Exorcism’ pushes back against the experimentations in form, instead just serving you up an absolute banger of a song that is great in the most traditional way possible. It’s got riffs that make your head bounce along, it has a verse that sound furiously angry, and a chorus that you can picture thousands of fans singing along with at any huge gig. After a quick bridge (and a bit of a life lesson, when Ginger advises “The best advice I ever got, is when you want to stop – don't stop!”) the song finishes with another blast of that singalong chorus. Short and Sweet, it knows when to finish and is a great lead in to the final track of the album.
10: My Head Wants Me Dead – Aleutia: If ever there was a song title to describe the music perfectly then this is it. Ginger has saved the most all over the place song for last. ‘My Head Wants Me Dead’ features some of the most discordant guitars I’ve ever heard – I love it. When things really get off kilter at around 02.15 (when Ginger sings “Here comes that feeling again” it’s seriously gonna throw people off to the point that they’ll probably think that the guitars are out of tune or somethings wrong with the recording. Lyrically Ginger lets us into his world by letting those that have never suffered with the demons of mental health get a very raw & honest view of what it can feel like to suffer with mental health issues. For those of us that have been there I think it’s safe to say it makes for very enjoyable (uncomfortable) listening. It’s a brilliant closing track that some how manages to capture the whole of “21st Century Love Songs” in under 5 minutes.
Given that we’ve all heard the album (whilst reviewing our songs) we all thought we’d each sum up how we felt about the overall album before coming up with a final review score.
Michael: '21st Century Love Songs' is an album that may end up as one of my favourite Wildhearts albums of all time. Where “Renaissance Men” echoed the sheer fury of “Earth Vs the Wildhearts”, “21st Century Love Songs” is an album that reminds me of other Wildhearts albums, those that might be considered more “experimental” such as “Fishing for Luckies”, their self-titled album and “Chutzpah”. With a wide range of sounds, styles and effects throughout the album, it is not quite as immediately accessible as “Renaissance Men” was, but I think it’s better. Considering I absolutely adored “Renaissance Men” that should tell you how I feel about this one! 5/5
Aleutia: “21st Century Love Songs” has taken the best elements of all the previous Wildhearts albums and put them all in one place. There are some serious vibes of the longer songs from “Fishing For Luckies” only with more twists and turns than a roller coaster and usually done in less than five minutes. If The “Renaissance Men” was the re-birth of The Wildhearts then “21st Century Love Songs” is quite possibly The Wildhearts enlightenment period. Overall it’s a brilliant album that may take several listens to fully get but don’t give up on it first time if it doesn’t make sense – stick with it as it will. With ‘Sleepaway’ Ginger has written The Wildhearts new national anthem so move aside ‘Shitsville’, ‘Shoes’, ‘Tv Tan’ & ‘Suckerpunch’ there is a new king on the set list and it ain’t you it’s ‘Sleepaway’. 5/5
Scott: I’ll admit that “Renaissance Men” never grabbed me when I first heard it, it took a few listens before I “got it”. This feels immediate. It’s the sound that’s been bubbling up in my head over COVID. There’s the feeling of a cornered animal that’s been backed into a corner and it’s ready to defend itself, teeth barred and claws ready. The Wildhearts have always been that kind of beast, as obstinate and as defiant as they’ve always wanted to be and “21st Century Love Songs” reflects that. Again they’ve made a record for themselves without any concession to trend or fashion and that’s what I’ve always loved about the band. It makes sense that they’ve tapped Discharge to play some of their shows later this year as this album shares a lot of their venom. With this release, The Wildhearts proven once again that they’re not here for nostalgia, they’re here to remind you that they just as vital as they’ve ever been. 4/5
Gerald: Records by the Wildhearts are always welcome and celebrated as they have been one of my favourite bands for almost 30 years now. I have a feeling this album will continue to be a grower for me as more and more is revealed with each listen. As I mentioned several times I wish the songs were longer and spent a bit more time on their musical breaks. The break that hits around the one minute mark of ‘Institutional Submission’ is awesome, and the song could have come from their “White Album” period. Danny and Ritch are locked in tight on this album as well with the bass and drums delivering killer grooves and supporting the riffs perfectly. ‘Sleepaway’ has killer harmonies and vocal hooks galore. The likes of ‘Splitter’ and ‘You Do You’ deliver short bursts of sonic goodness. If you threw a wave of white noise behind ‘Directions’ I think it would sit nicely on “Endless Nameless.” At this early stage, ‘A Physical Exorcism’ is my runt of the litter, but I can see it overcoming that in time. ‘My Head Wants Me Dead’ serves as a great closer with it feeling a bit like it could have come from Ginger’s “Albion” album. All in all, this will be one of my most listened to albums over the final quarter of the year. It’s way too soon to say where I would rank it in my personal Wildhearts’ album rankings, but I expect it will be near the top of my list of best albums of 2021. 4/5
Vikki: I thought it would be difficult to top “Renaissance Men”, but they've managed it! It may not be as immediately accessible, but it is actually better, in my opinion. It shows just how many quality musicians are in the band, and how well they fit all together. “21st Century Love Songs” is an album that I've already listened to countless times, and I can't imagine that changing any time soon. A legitimate 5/5, and probably my album of the year.
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Review - Scott Hamilton, Gerald Stansbury, Aleutia Shannon, Vikki Holding, Michael Braunton