Thanks to the wonders of an online auction site, today I received what I consider to be one of the best albums I've ever heard. Let me explain.
Everyone has a band that they get obsessively into when they're about 17-18ish. Mine happened to be The Wildhearts. I was into them so much that I was producing a one-off fanzine within six months. They were bloody gods. I won't compare them to band X or band Y; they played loud, riff-based rock music with hooks the size of the proverbial small European nation. I met them at a gig in Plymouth; the guitarist insisted his Mum and Dad should be in the photo with us. I collared the singer/guitarist at the bar, queuing with everyone else — no pretentious rockstar — for a case of brown ale for the band, and asked him if he wanted a fanzine so I could say it had been endorsed. He took one off me and said if he thought it was any good, he'd come and find me and pay for it — if it was 's***e' he'd come and give it me back. Ten minutes later, Ginger was introducing himself to my mates; ten minutes after that, he was moshing in front of the stage to the support act. Not just a god, but a gentleman.
The Wildhearts are no more, though they do resurface once in a while. But twelve years later, Ginger is still going strong. He has unerringly made great music for years, releasing album after album in one guise or another, and with any justice in the word he'd be a gutsy Damien Rice or James Blunt. As much as I love those guys (yes, even Blunt), Ginger has this knack of writing consistantly damn good songs that never ever leave your head. When he puts his foot down, he comes out with riffs that the Stones would die for. When he mellows, I instinctively reach for my lighter to wave above my head.
He's been doing this to me for years.
Then he splits up with his long-term partner, and releases the best damn album of his career. Marvin Gaye did the same. Must stir something, I guess.
I won't review it. The most unlikely place for it to be spotted was the Sun newspaper, whose critic wrote:
That The Wildhearts remain largely unheard of by the masses is one of the great travesties of British rock'n'roll.
Soaring melodies, contagious hooks, outrageous riffs and an annoying tendency to self-destruct are their trademarks, with the main man Ginger responsible for most of it. He's had more than his fair share of drama, has Ginge. And when his life fell to pieces late in 2004, he could have gone off the rails for good. Instead, he ended up in Willie Nelson's Texas studio... and sunk to new heights. Valor Del Corazon is a stunning double album providing a rollercoaster ride through the raw emotions of a relationship breakdown.
Easily his most personal work to date, this is an eclectic journey that deserves to be shared. Ballsy rock, soulful ballads, funk, grandiose epics and country all feature, but the one constant is an untouchable talent for writing a great tune and an almighty riff. Nineteen tracks. 19 gems. Pure tortured genius.
Go to http://www.myspace.com/silverginger (in maintenance - anyone had any server problems recently? - at the moment, but bookmark it at least) and have a listen to the two tracks there. Then buy the album.
Just buy the album. Valor Del Corazon. If God had decided on a purpose for a guitar before thrusting it into the hands of his favourite protegé, this would have been it.