The Wildhearts' new album is stuffed with energy, anger, humour and artistic invention

Revitalised genre agnostics The Wildhearts take the kitchen sink and run with it on 21st Century Love Songs

The Wildhearts: 21st Century Love Songs album cover
(Image: © Graphite)

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Ginger Wildheart has suggested that he saw this follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed Renaissance Men as an opportunity for his band to “flex our creative muscle”. That appears to be quite some understatement. 

On the face of it, there are ten 21st Century Love Songs here. But within those tracks are roughly 121 hooks, 68 choruses, 27 gags, 40 swearwords, 99 riffs, 14 daft samples, and probably a partridge in a pear tree somewhere. 

That said, it’s probably been scared to death by the splenetic intensity of these songs, constructed via a turbo-charged supermarket sweep of styles: snatches of hardcore here, grunge there, a swipe or six from the power-pop aisle, a couple of lurches into thrash, and a crafty pocketing of some rockabilly while the checkout lady wasn’t looking.

Even if its endlessly restless feel sometimes resembles particularly hyperactive prog-metal, for the most part it makes every other record released this year sound like hopelessly anodyne easy listening in comparison. 

Selected highlights are the way Sleepaway pinballs between a lovelorn stadium rock anthem, a Motorhead-esque metal rant, an air-punching blast of power-pop positivity, a rockabilly boogie and a pummelling hardcore chant-along assault, before ending with the stoned, wistful, crooned conclusion: ‘As the dog looked up at the aeroplane, and I laughed at his obvious confusion/ He turned to me and said…fish don’t know they’re in water.’ 

Those six words, spoken in Ginger’s South Shields brogue are an introduction to another potential live staple, You Do You, a stomping, potty-mouthed punk hymn to the times that sneers: ‘Everybody is an expert these days.’

A positive reception will also hopefully provide solace for the subject of Sort Your Fucking Shit Out, which addresses ‘David’ (our sometimes struggling frontman’s birth name), before the whole band shout: ‘Oi! Sort it out! If you don’t, you’re a twat!’ 

Just as much rage is directed outwards, and in equally original fashion, from the opening title track’s tilt at heteronormative modern rock radio to observations like: ‘We are force-fed filth from infancy,’ as he rages on Institutional Submission before introducing the memorable insult ‘c**t by association’. 

Soon after, on Directions, he notes that ‘the right wing keep dreaming of an autocratic dystopia’. And that’s just skimming the surface of a record so full of energy, anger, humour and artistic invention that it’s clearly in quite a bit of pain. 

ADHD rock, anyone? A genre The Wildhearts can surely call their own.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock