Review by Ian Savage
Released February 12th
He’s never been one to rest on his laurels, has our Ginger. In between recording and touring with power-pop project Hey! Hello!, Wildhearts reunion shows to celebrate the anniversary of 1994’s phuq LP and the Songs And Words ‘evening-with’ tour, over the past eighteen months he’s also been quietly maintaining his Ginger Associated Secret Society (‘GASS’) project.
A cut above the ‘sticker, pin badge and postcard in an SAE’ type fan club which those of us of a certain vintage might recall less than fondly, members of GASS were treated to 36 brand-new tracks in their inboxes at the rate of three a month through to the middle of last year. The cream of these are now collected for the delectation of the public at large in Year Of The Fan Club: twelve original tunes featuring appearances from some of the finest musicians rock has to offer.
It’s simultaneously one of the most musically diverse yet lyrically cohesive albums Ginger has put out. The former is unsurprising given the gestation period of the songs and the breadth of the collaborations involved; the latter is speculatively the result of the luxury of time to hone and refine words and phrases rather than being pushed to deliver in the studio.
From heavily-female-voiced riff-soaked opening one-two punch of Down The Dip and Honour (featuring Courtney Love), through ‘big picture’ songs like the touching country-folk retelling of The Pendine Incident or ‘state of the union address with brass band accompaniment’ Toxins And Tea, all the way to the closing 9-minute-long ode to feminism Don’t Lose Your Tail, Girl (because no Ginger-penned album would be complete without at least one track that’s expansive to the point of bonkers), it appears that the Geordie may be embracing his emerging ‘elder statesman of rock’ status. Sure, the ever-simmering resentment of poseurs (the opener, No One Smiled At Me Today) and love/hate relationship with the UK’s capital (If You Find Yourself In London Town) are referenced as they have been regularly through his back catalogue, but there’s an overall feel of positivity and (dare we say it) optimism shooting through the whole LP.
It must have been a tough call to cut three dozen songs down to one for this; the tracklist even shifted slightly between the initial press release and the eventual album. There’s a couple of tunes that may invoke the fast-forward reflex after a few listens, but in the same way that one might pass on the cheese and biscuits to leave more room for the gateaux; there are almost too many high points to this album to settle in for the full 54 minutes.
Frankly, you could fill your spring 2016 listening schedule with new albums from Wildhearts off-shoots if you were so inclined (Scott Sorry, CJ, Random Jon Poole/Willie Dowling and Danny McCormack’s Main Grains all have fresh offerings) – and if they’re even close to the standard the mainman has set here, you probably should.
8.5 out of 10
- Down The Dip
- El Mundo (Slow Fatigue)
- The Last Day Of Summer
- Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now
- The Pendine Incident
- Do You?
- If You Find Yourself In London Town
- Toxins & Tea
- No One Smiled At Me Today
- Don’t Lose Your Tail, Girl