It’s been 11 years since The Wildhearts split up for the umpteenth and final time, and things are going better than ever for them. A band that always thrived on chaos, misadventure and doing exactly the opposite of what people expected were never going to stay dead, and 2019’s risen-from-the-grave Renaissance Men was their best outing since their genius-level 1993 debut, Earth Vs The Wildhearts.
21st Century Love Songs continues this late-career hot streak. It’s not quite as smack-in-the-face immediate as its predecessor was, but it’s not far off. Renaissance Men was 39 minutes of anthemic carpet-bombing. This has more than its share of uppercut melodies and knockout choruses too – in the case of the luminous Remember These Days, it has several of both in just the one song. But they’re just as willing to throw down a barrage of blastbeats like the ones that kick off Institutional Submission or step out of the pop explosion of Sleepaway for a quick burst of rockabilly. Look, it’s the Wildhearts. It’s what they do.
That album title is a red herring. Sure, the song 21st Century Love Songs itself takes aim at traditional heteronormative ideas of romance (‘“A man needs a woman at the end of the day” / What a moronic crock of shit for anybody to say’), but like all the greatest Wildhearts songs, it’s really about rooting for the underdog. Elsewhere, frontman Ginger pours bile on the ruling classes on Institutional Submission and Directions, and tackles the close-to-home subject of mental health on the self-explanatory My Head Wants Me Dead.
Most startling of all is Sort Your Fucking Shit Out. ‘David,’ sings Ginger, addressing his younger self, ‘You’ve got another chance / So take off your shoes and dance.’ Fury and sarcasm we expect, but optimism? That’s a new one for The Wildhearts. Long may they keep wrongfooting us.
21st Century Love Songs is available on September 3 via Graphite Records