The Wildhearts' Renaissance Men is dark, heavy... and triumphant

The Wildhearts' first album in 10 years, Renaissance Men, ticks all the right boxes – arriba!

The Wildhearts - Renaissance Men

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The Wildhearts - Renaissance Men

The Wildhearts - Renaissance Men

1. Dislocated
2. Let ‘Em Go
3. The Renaissance Men
4. Fine Art of Deception
5. Diagnosis
6. My Kinda Movie
7. Little Flower
8. Emergency (Fentanyl Babylon)
9. My Side Of The Bed
10. Pilo Erection

Although touted as featuring the ‘classic’ line-up of Ginger, CJ, Ritch Battersby and Danny McCormack, these four made only one album together – the original Fishing For Luckies in 1994. They tried again later that year, but CJ was gone after the initial sessions for what became p.h.u.q

CJ and Ginger smoothed things over in 2001, and Ritch has been back on the drum stool since 2005. So presumably it’s the return of bassist Danny – on stage for the Britrock Must Be Destroyed dates a year ago even though recovering from the amputation of part of his right leg – that has been the catalyst bringing this turbulent band full circle to how they sounded when he first joined in 1991. 

Ginger reckons that previous album ¡Chutzpah! (2009, with Scott Sorry on bass) was poorly received, but this one deserves a Champagne reception. Whereas ¡Chutzpah! was lyrically brighter and musically drifting into power-pop at times, Renaissance Men gets darker and heavier again. It isn’t gloomy, though. 

Far from it. The title track is joyous and triumphant: ‘Back in your face again, we’re the Renaissance Men... ARRIBA!/You need us around, you can’t keep a good band down…’ – plus a series of canny rhymes, including probably the first ever chorus to pair ‘DC-10’ with ‘men’. 

Not just that song, but the whole album takes you back to the feeling you had the first time you heard Turning American; that impossible Beatles/Metallica, angry/funny nexus. It’s the Wildhearts remembering what they do best – and just going for it. 

It starts at full tilt with Dislocated – which in places sounds like Motörhead, until a prime-cut Ginger bridge gives it away – then crashes, via a howl of feedback, into Let ’Em Go in which a gang chorus sings about rivers of shit. Fine Art Of Deception celebrates lack of commitment with sinister yet customary honesty: ‘Don’t let my proximity mean what it may imply/I’m just working on a way to say goodbye.’ 

The centre-piece of the album is Diagnosis. The best and longest of the 10 tracks, it builds slowly into a rant about mental health professionals and how they let people down. Ginger launches another brutal attack, this time on the pharmaceutical industry, in Emergency (Fentanyl Babylon), but he’s funnier when referencing drugs in My Kinda Movie and closer Pilo Erection

So, is it as good as Earth Vs The Wildhearts? No. On a par with Fishing For Luckies and p.h.u.q.? Close – and easily the best thing since.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.