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◄ Stupid bloody childhood taboos & open source writing

2004-08-04 📌 Down memory lane with my favourite Wildhearts album

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Fear (n.)—The feeling experienced by a Mushroom Records executive on first listening to Endless, Nameless.

Much has been written about the negative reaction of existing fans to the barrage of noise the Wildhearts released in 1997. I wouldn't know anything about that. At the time, I'd only heard the UK "best of" (which could maybe more accurately be described as a singles collection with some bonus material.) I'd also just picked up an issue of Metal Hammer—November's —for the first time. The Wildhearts got a bunch of features in that one... a few lines about the Anthem after-show party in a column subtly entitled "Off Yer Tits", a half-page advert, a tour interview in "Get In The Van", and a track-by-track review of Endless, Nameless in which they took the opportunity to get the band to cast an eye over their previous albums. It also contains tidbits such as that the album could have been called 'Sweetmeat' or 'Thunder Fuck'... the Nirvana reference was apparently accidental, although the band weren't upset by it.

I can't really remember my initial reaction to hearing it, only that I was extremely chuffed to be given it (along with an Alice Cooper video) by my friend group for what I think was my eighteenth birthday. With so many landmark birthdays happening at the end of college, group presents were de rigueur, and it tended to mean people got something genuinely nifty versus a random book or similar. Stuck in my mind, anyway, because it's an album I've lived with and loved for years now. In the interests of full disclosure, almost everything I've heard by the Wildies I've liked or has grown on me—not quite as keen on the earliest stuff and early b-sides, but they round out as my favourite band almost by default. I have a few bootlegs and most 'rarities' alongside regular releases.

Endless, Nameless is the era of recordings I keep coming back to. Its b-sides have been collected on a Japanese compilation and their version of the main album has a cover of "Pump It Up" (which us UK-ers got on a Melody Maker cover CD, whilst the US got... er, virtually no releases of anything Wildheartian.) It's all gloriously, gloriously distorted. Not enough bands do distortion and do it well, in my opinion. Anyone can do thrash and feedback—exploiting the full range of frequencies whilst holding it together with melody takes skill. Where forty-six minutes of assault would have been boring and not stood up to replay, what we got was whirlwind variation of pace, mix and volume. And if you track down the rest of the tracks from this period, you'll find they neatly fit onto one 80 minute CD-R for convenient playing.

Well, that's three fairly long paragraphs, so here's a track-by-track account... "Junkenstein" kicks us off. The first time through, you're likely to pick out a few words before it leads straight into the howling bass-driven piece of pop which is "Nurse Maximum". Now, "Junkenstein" is quite a negative track if you actually listen to it... it's about people turning into lying bastards when using genuinely addictive class-A drugs. "Nurse..." can also be interpreted as being about drugs, but it's rather more about partying in general. As are "Anthem" (living the dream), "Urge" (living at the weekend) and "Pissjoy" (not letting miserable bastards bring you down). "Anthem" is a song which could conceivably damage speaker cones, although getting the full sickening thump mid-way through the song is arguably worth it. "Urge" is unapologetically bludgeoning, until "Pissjoy" opens things up with a grinding, screaming chorus-of-thousands headfuck. If ever I need to blow off steam, this is what does it. It's carthartic, draining and often euphoric if you stay still and listen to the wall of backing sounds.

We come down with "Soundog Babylon", a pleasantly bouncy number which meanders a little repetitively into complete feedback breakdown and alternating between soft vocals and torture of instruments. "Now is the Colour" is also a little more straightforward with its production and overdubbing. I'd compare it to "Splattermania" from a much earlier release—some interesting, stand-out lyrics and effects you're most likely to appreciate if already drunk and lying on your back for a bit of a breather. The police sirens are also pretty realistic if you happen to be in a car whilst listening. "Heroin" is a Dogs D'Amour cover without the subtlety of an 'e' in the title, submerged beneath crackling and general over-amping. If you were at all in danger of drowsing in the soothing fuzz, "Why You Lie" lulls you into a false sense of security before unleashing breakneck attacks. There's no other way to describe them but as attacks... at dishonesty in general, and very specifically at the band's bassist—"Junkenstein" is largely about him, too. Given that Danny was nursing serious and debilitating addictions by this point (something the band were working pretty hard to shield his family from) a fair part of the album derives from the anger and frustration the others were feeling as they tried to hold everything together—for instance, Ginger wound up playing a lot of different parts and then getting very, very involved with the mixing. Taken in context, then, "Thunderfuck" was a goodbye. The first line, 'and this is all—relax', begins a long slow-boiler which eventually opens the floodgates for a soaring finale (overlaid with spoken farewells) and crumples on a happy note.

All of which, as I've said, leads nicely into the b-sides; loads of fun covers and chirpier lyrics. It also leads us back to the opening sentence of this ramble... because at the time of its release, Endless, Nameless was commercial suicide. It didn't take long for stock to be remaindered in most shops, and it's only now that received wisdom is leaning more towards recognition that this is an album almost criminally ignored. You shouldn't expect to pay too much for a copy... well, unless you go to a high-street store. Why HMV think it sensible to charge far more for non-chart material, I have no idea—their sale prices tend at best to match online ones. The b-sides are another matter... original "Urge" and "Anthem" CD singles are generally very cheap in second-hand record stores and on eBay, but the Japanese compilation (the easiest way to get the couple of vinyl-only tracks) will tend to set you back a bit... whether it's worth it may depend on how many of the singles you can easily track down. I have a copy because my sister went to Japan on a school trip—now there's a place I'd love to visit. Music stores there tend to be split into three sections: domestic releases, imported stuff, and bootlegs.

In closing... Danny was starved off heroin, the band—with him for a short while, currently without due to high risk of relapse on tour—recently reformed and have released a short and punchy new album, The Wildhearts... Must Be Destroyed (my very short review: happy music!) and massive collection of recent b-sides, Coupled With.

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