Review by Ian Savage
Release Date: 31 March 2014
It’s heartening to know that for every ten thousand of the charisma-free oxygen thieves churned through the TV ‘talent’ machine on a weekly basis, there exists the balance of even one of the likes of Ginger Wildheart – someone whose sheer work ethic and songwriting nous enables them to carve out a niche in a hostile, unwelcoming industry.
For those unaware, Ginger is something of a poster-boy for the fan-funded route of releasing music. After more than a decade of conflict with the industry status quo with The Wildhearts, he took a last-gasp punt on a crowd-sourced solo release via PledgeMusic in 2011; the resultant 3-disc album 555% was titled after the percentage of his target sum he raised before stopping further pledges after a few weeks. Albion is his fourth release through the same platform since – the man is a writing machine.
No-one familiar with any of his work over the last twenty years or so will be totally surprised by this latest opus. From the surely deliberately Who-esque intro to pop-fuelled opener ‘Drive’, massive riffs are seamlessly fused with sing-along melodies that will likely lodge themselves firmly into your subconscious whether you like it or not. Ginger has surrounded himself with a top-notch crew of musicians for ‘Albion’, given testament by the ludicrous number of mid-song tempo and timing changes (see: second tune ‘Cambria’, the out-and-out lunacy of ‘Creepers’).
This isn’t an album for a dabbler in the Geordie’s output; for every beautifully-harmonised Beach Boys/Stars-influenced 3-minute pop nugget (‘Grow A Pair’, ‘Body Parts’), there’s a stretched-out, almost prog-rock exploration (‘Burn This City Down’, the closing title track’s occasional jazz stylings and bizarre breakdown), often with the the two intertwining in the sometimes jarring manner he has never shied away from.
As a complete body of work, though, Albion may well be the zenith of what Ginger has been striving for over a quarter-century in the rock game. The slightly left-field hard rock upon which The Wildhearts built their reputation is present in spades, but it’s augmented by the perfect pop he flexed his songwriting muscles for to produce Hey! Hello!, and toughened by the more metal-edged influence bought to bear during his work on Mutation/Error 500.
For any hardcore fan of Ginger’s work, reading this review is likely perfunctory – you’ll have already pledged your money and be eagerly awaiting the album’s arrival. For anyone contemplating splashing their cash, you’d better be quick – at the time of writing, only 86 of the £20 CD/DVD/book physical releases were still available via PledgeMusic – and on the strength of this, one of those will be mine.
9 out of 10
- Grow A Pair
- Burn This City Down
- The Order Of The Dog
- Body Parts
- The Beat Goes On (Caledonia)
- After All You Said About Cowboys