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The Wildhearts: Earth vs. The Wildhearts - Album Of The Week Club review

Earth vs. The Wildhearts was a Britrock classic, and an intoxicating, hyperactive mash-up of pop melodies, punk aggression and glam-rock swagger

The Wildhearts: Earth vs. The Wildhearts
(Image: © Rhino Records)
The Wildhearts: Earth vs. The Wildhearts

(Image credit: Rhino Records)

Greetings From Shitsville
TV Tan
Everlone
Shame On Me
Loveshit
The Miles Away Girl
My Baby Is A Headfuck
Suckerpunch
News Of The World
Love U Til I Don't

A band who made an art form of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, The Wildhearts’ history is an inglorious tangle of in-fighting, drug abuse, self-sabotage and some of the finest rock songs ever committed to vinyl. 

An intoxicating, hyperactive mash-up of pop melodies, punk aggression and glam-rock swagger, their brilliant debut is a perfect encapsulation of what it meant to be a skint, horny, cynical, pissed-up and lairy twenty-something in mid-90s Britain.

Outrageously confident and bursting with dazzling riffs and memorable singalong melodies, Earth vs. The Wildhearts sounded like all your favourite rock’n’roll bands playing at once. An exuberant snapshot of a band in love with music and life, songs like Greetings From Shitsville and Everlone were fresh and timeless. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

After a handful of acclaimed Wildhearts EPs that saw him escape the shadow of his former band The Quireboys with almost distasteful haste, Ginger and The Wildhearts’ debut album was as blunt as a mallet and as warm as summer sunshine. Sceptical at best, it allowed Ginger to rage and rail against all manner of topics, but mainly he saved his most theatrical sneers for affairs of the heart. 

“We were taking lots of speed and pot, acid now and again,” recalls Ginger, “but no one had got into heroin yet. We were still drinking Special Brew and Stone’s Ginger Wine because we couldn’t afford Jack Daniel’s. We’d make these ridiculous curries that’d last us weeks – we’d just keep topping it up. We learnt how to get really fucked up really cheaply.”

One moment which does stick in the band’s frazzled memory is the arrival of Mick Ronson. The former Spiders From Mars guitarist’s guest solo on My Baby Is A Headfuck would be his final performance before he succumbed to liver cancer in April 1993.

“Mick was going to produce, originally,” says Ginger, “and I think when the record company found out he wasn’t well they decided they didn’t want him to. I got in touch and said: ‘I’m sorry about the production job. It’s corporate nonsense. But would you still come and play the solo on this song?’ And he came down with this battered old Telecaster and played the best solo I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Other albums released in August 1993

  • The Outer Limits - Voivod
  • Bloody Kisses - Type O Negative
  • Rise - Bad Brains
  • Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths - Clutch
  • Kerosene Hat - Cracker
  • Set the World on Fire - Annihilator
  • Last Splash - The Breeders
  • Skydancer - Dark Tranquillity
  • Unknown Road - Pennywise

What they said...

"While possibly not The Wildhearts’ most technically revered record or, for the fans, most exploratory, with P.H.U.Q. and Fishing For Luckies often taking those places respectively, for me its hard to escape the vigour and power of Earth Vs… before the band became mired in personnel changes and on-again-off-again relationships with record companies that, along with a terrific ability at personal self-destruction, meant the band have remained relegated to the sidelines." (Tommy Girard)

"Earth Vs… gave the UK rock scene the kick in the teeth that it desperately needed. Entering the charts, and peaking, at number 46, Earth Vs… was full of sing-along classics that packed a punch heavier than Conor McGregor and set The Wildhearts apart from everyone else around." (MMH

"Clever lyrics and breakneck riffs abound, and it is impossible to not get caught up in the mile-wide hooks on virtually every cut, from TV Tan to Suckerpunch. Mick Ronson adds guitar on the wry My Baby Is a Headfuck and the song Caffeine Bomb more than lives up to its name. Attitude, melody and rock-solid rhythms make Earth Vs. the Wildhearts a worthy debut. (AllMusic)

What you said...

Jonathan Novajosky: This was a new one for me. I had to listen through it twice to gather my thoughts, but I mostly like it. The vocals can be hit or miss, and that generally directed my feelings towards a particular song. TV Tan, Everlone, and Loveshit were the standouts to me--featuring solid 90s rock that you would expect with a bit of catchiness sprinkled in. I'll probably end up listening to Earth Versus the Wildhearts a few more times given that the only really bad thing about it is its album cover. 7/10

Bez Berry: A fucking belting album from start to finish. It took me threeish years to wear the cassette out waaaay back when. Put simply. If you don't like this album you really shouldn't be listening to guitar music

Mike Ollier: Most notable for containing the last Ronson solo on Baby Is A Headfuck ~ the album is a glorious clatter and Ginger's heart is in the right place (Frankie Miller, Jason & the Scorchers etc) but I just never liked his voice!

Sorry.

Pete Runcieman: Without doubt one of the finest albums of the last 40 years. Not one weak track on it, but anthem after anthem. Ginger is certainly an extremely underrated lyricist. The album sounds a little rough because it's basically created from demos but it's still better than most. I will never get tired of listening to this album. 11/10.

Keith Hollinshed: Excellent album. Loveshit, Headfuck, TV Tan, Shitsville, and (on later editions) Caffeine Bomb all classics. Great, and sadly final, appearance of Mick Ronson.

Andrew Martyn" Got if off a friend when it came out back in high school, everytime I think Ive heard it enough, I hear Everlone, and it's like being a teenager again

Randy Banner: This was a completely unknown quantity to me. Somehow this band managed to elude my musical radar until yesterday, and I was very pleasantly surprised. The band is tight and Ginger's vocals never disappoint. A little bit of punk, a little bit of glam, a whole lot of rock'n'roll. I could listen to Greetings From Shitsville all day long.

John Davidson: Not for me this one. I like the guitars and the punky, pop rock rhythms mixed with rock'n'roll riffs but the vocals do nothing for me at all.

The instrumental second half of Everlone shows me what they can do, but they don't play like that very often. Loveshit is probably the best of the pop punk numbers , though Suckerpunch has a Motorhead revivalist's charm and Geordie in Wonderland is like being out with your mates down the Big Market.

Iain Macaulay: Back in the day, I saw the Quireboys with Ginger playing guitar. They were pretty good. Enjoyable. I bought their stuff. I then heard he’d left and started to read about the Wildhearts in Kerrang!. But it was really because of Bam Bam from the Dogs D’amor playing drums on those first early releases that got me interested and made me buy the EPs. I was a big Dogs fan. I got the Mondo Akimbo A-Go-Go 12’’ on white vinyl when it came out. Then the second EP, the Don’t Be Happy...Just Worry 12’’ on black vinyl. I still have them.

I remember going to the record shop opposite my work on the day this album came out and playing it to death, and subsequently buying every single from it, and every single after. The Wildhearts are a band whose B-sides are as important, and in some cases of higher quality than the A-sides, and are played live.

The lyrics on this album are so clever and so varied in topic, from the ridiculous to the sublime, to the very serious. They are all very expressive and paint a very vivid picture in your mind if you take them in. The riffs are also so imaginative. But it’s the arrangements of the songs where Ginger excels. Where most bands would plump for a couple of riffs a song with maybe 20 an album, Ginger can put 20 in one song! A passing one-bar riff played once in the middle of a song could be a hit single for most bands. OK, so I’m maybe exaggerating, but not by much. It’s no mistake they have a song called Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff.

This is Brit rock, yes, but with an American twang that doesn’t descend into parody on either part. The Pistols, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, they are all there, but with Ginger's Geordie brogue over the top, singing about some serious topics that those bands never ever ventured into. This is an album than gives up more and more with each listen and one you need to invest the time in to get all of it in your head. This is no instant junkie fix. 

And for that, this, to me is a classic album and the first 10 I will be giving to this club. I could go on much more about this band, and the songs themselves, but to finish I would say they are one of the most important ‘underground’ bands in the U.K. and thankfully still going and releasing high quality work, regardless of the trials and tribulations they’ve had to endure. Greetings From Shitsville indeed.

Andrew Holmes: I love this album. A total life-changer for me and I'm so glad the band are still out there recording and touring. The Wildhearts are also very good to their fans too and always have time to chat. God Bless The Wildhearts.

Mike Bruce: We could talk all day about what makes an album a classic but just cut to the chase and put this on.

There's a school of thought that the Wildhearts' not-so-secret recipe of pop hooks, metal guitars and punk attitude should be like fast food, enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. This album gives a lie to that one. It gets better with age, not just for those who've lived with it since day one but for the new friends it attracts all the time.

Genius.

Marco LG: This is a band that should have been huge and this is an album that should have sold way more than it did. Whatever the causes, the lack of airplay or even basic promotion in Italy meant I didn’t get to hear a single note by The Wildhearts until some 10 years after this album came out, and only after I moved to the UK. The irony of course is that it was an Italian friend of mine suggesting I should listen, and listening I did indeed.

On the surface Earth vs The Wildhearts is great fun. The music is incredibly catchy and the choruses are so big it’s impossible not to sing along with them. Dig just a bit deeper and the lyrics hit you with a ton of sarcasm describing the harsh realities of substance abuse and difficult relationships. Singing at this stage becomes a cathartic experience, almost an antidote to stress and frustration. 

Dig more and the complexity of the music begins to surface, beyond the apparent simplicity layer upon layer of riffs and vocal lines keep each song fresh even after several spins. Personally, I never get tired of this album, and listen to it on a fairly regular basis to this date.

In conclusion, Earth vs The Wildhearts embodies in my opinion the very essence of classic rock: it is as relevant in today’s world as it was in 1993, it sounds as heavy as it did then and most importantly it makes me want to sing out loud every chorus and every solo. Top marks from me.

Carl Black: I'm meeting Ginger for a swift beer in the Halfway House. We're drinking equal measures of punk and metal , a pint of rock'n'roll and washed down with a thrash metal chasers. When this album hits its a 10 all the way. Greetings From Shitsville, Everlone, TV Tan, My Baby Is A Headfuck and the best one on the album, Suckerpunch are all worthy of classic track status. 

The albums has a few fillers but the quality of the rest of the tracks pulls this through. I keep forgetting that throughout there career they have penned some amazing songs but never a whole album's worth. I think I'll have to dig out a greatest hits. Ginger is a musical sponge that sucks up influences like a prototype Dyson hoover and squeezes it out on to a blank canvas with vigour and gusto making a right ol' mess. 

I've come across them a few times, being kicked off the Donnington stage for over-running, surprise support band to Pantera at the Marquee, and not turning up at all at Reading one year. Always good fun and unpredictable, much like this album. Highs and lows but the highs significantly outweigh the Lows.

John McConnel: I first saw these guys opening for Alice in Chains in 93, I simply had no choice but to go on the hunt for everything and anything that had The Wildhearts name on it. This album is an underrated classic

Nigel Taylor: Simply one of the greatest rock albums ever made. Yes it is that good!

Mike Fry: God's perfect album.

Final Score: 8.37 ⁄10 (143 votes cast, with a total score of 1198)

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