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2009-09-28Welcoming Chutzpah! or "The Wildies are finally back on form!"

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It's been a rough few years for me as a Wildhearts fan. Quite some time after Endless, Nameless (1997) they returned with The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed (2003) — an album that was short, poppy and thoroughly enjoyable. The band were loved up and I remember a fun gig at which we got an acoustic warm-up set (because someone had forgotten to arrange a support band), current material and a load of stuff from the vaults. This was after the hiccup of Danny ending up back on the hard stuff at a JB's gig previous to this, and being bundled off through the crowd after getting his cock out on stage to crowd-surfers, but the future looked promising.

The b-sides compilation that went with Destroyed — Coupled With — sadly did little to uphold a tradition that almost every Wildhearts b-side until that point had been a gem. About as many were released in that period as had been released in the band's previous career, and at around the same time Ginger was releasing a lot of solo material as well. The creative well seemed to be running dry.

A couple of live albums (The Wildhearts Strike Back, Geordie in Wonderland) followed, which were probably nice for anyone who hadn't tracked down the Japanese Tokyo Suits Me. I had a couple of listens and shrugged.

2007 brought us the self-titled The Wildhearts, which I still don't especially rate but have now re-acquired a copy of (spending time without albums sometimes inclines me to give them a second chance.) I don't know whether it's the almost nu-metal production or tendency towards repetitive lyrics, but it felt more like Coupled With era b-sides than a new album to me. It tended to review well, though, to be fair.

Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before then appeared, a covers compilation I didn't manage to get into either. By now the band seemed going through the motions — although 2008 saw The Works released by Rhino, making three discs of early album tracks and b-sides available at a nice price. I highly recommend checking that out and forcing copies on any younger relatives you might have (who'll look up with manga eyes and ask what a CD is, but you can show them how to make MP3s.)

All in all, I wasn't allowing myself to hope much with Chutzpah! and listened before buying.

Like most solid relationships, it's been pleasant surprise moving towards warm fuzzies as one feels more settled and comfortable with the nuances of the other. Wildhearts albums generally take a few listens to wear in (if they're going to, in the case of the newer material mentioned above) and along with cohesion, part of what helps this one is its brevity. Thirty-six minutes or so is short enough to take in the entire thing on the way to / back from work, and launching straight into a fast, solid track from the beginning means it's unlikely to get passed over for another album. The Japanese release includes an extended opening plus three other tracks inserted later in the running order... having heard it I have to say they don't really gel. What you've got with the regular release of Chutzpah! is a punchy little set that doesn't actually feel brief or short-changing when you're listening.

My favourites are The Jackson Whites, The Only One, You Took The Sunshine From New York and Chutzpah, all of which are very different. Variety is a good description of the disc as a whole, but the sound is nonetheless integrated in a way that's been a detriment on the self-titled album and covers release (precisely because they lacked variety to go with the production.)

That variety extends to people other than Ginger writing and singing, piano parts, a vocoder and an album closer that fades out remarkably like Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses. In all other respects, there are plenty of heavy guitars and poppy moments, and even some blast-beat drums and industrial sounds, so don't let word of experimentation put you off. In fact a large number of those things are included in the track that shares its name with the album, nevermind the playfulness of the rest of the disc.

Clips and more information at http://www.myspace.com/thewildhearts — the album itself has been reviewed to death across the web, and you'd be better off listening to some stuff than dwelling on my musings. If you like visuals or want to preview full tracks, there are lots of amateur music videos on YouTube.


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