Riff After Riff

The Wildhearts

Gearhead Records, 2004


REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow


From afar, London's Wildhearts are a band that I have always kept a wary eye on. Everyone I know who has heard these guys swears by them, but my taste of the material found on the band's other albums I own, P.H.U.Q. and Endless, Nameless (along with four or five bootleg gigs), have always left me with a pretty bland impression. The fact that Gearhead Records has released the Wildhearts' first album stateside (and made it relatively easy to find in stores) in over a decade gives me reason to merit an opinion of the material found on the band's most recent release, Riff After Riff, after making the tentative purchase.

Recycling a handful of tunes off of the Wildhearts' 2002 Japanese release, Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff, I find I can't help but snicker at what I'm hearing on a presumably neutered derivative of that release. Maybe that's not a fair thing for me to do as the fretwork shared by Ginger is rather innovative and catchy throughout a large part of the album but I just can't get over the fact that he oh-so-blatantly "recycles" another riff by way of the Hellacopters hit "Soulseller" on the opening of "Action Panzer."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I guess this proves that long-haired rockers are just plain dumb. Ripping off a riff from another band's work is one thing, but to do such a thing when that band is a contemporary of yours and still includes the source song as a staple in their live set is just criminal - if not sadly funny.

That gaffe aside, Riff After Riff is a somewhat unique effort in today's musical rock n' roll climate. Meaningful song arrangements set to a background of momentum-changing guitar solos gives this album refreshing appeal. Vocally speaking, Ginger could be confused as a slightly more masculine version of Cheap Trick's throat, Robin Zander. Such an association screams songs with melody. That assumption is fair as the songs on Riff After Riff prove.

As such, my dilemma in assessing Riff After Riff stems from the fact that I have always been pained in listening to Cheap Trick for the sole reason of Zander's cheery vocals. By and large, you get such fuzzy sentiments on Riff After Riff which only serves to contrast the healthy dose of aggressive guitar riffing. Some of the more notable shredding is found introducing the tracks "Lake Of Piss," "Stormy In The North, Karma In The South" and "Return To Zero," which keep those songs interesting. The extended aggression on "Return To Zero" and "O.C.D." attempt to alienate these tracks from the overall feel good vibe that Riff After Riff decidedly provides. From my perspective, this is truly a good thing. From where I sit, these two notable examples of continued manliness translate into two points for the Wildhearts.

To the contrary, tracks including "Putting It On," "Better Than Cable" and "Bang!" offer little in the way of distraction from those annoying happy choruses. There is nothing instrumental happening in the triumvirate of songs that capture any lasting interest in me and quite frankly it's these moments that leave me craving a spin and listen to one of those Hellacopters albums of which I was earlier speaking.

The interviews and tour diaries Ginger has given us over the years typecast him just short of being a major league crybaby for the lack of worldwide success eluding the Wildhearts over the last decade. After listening to Riff After Riff, all I can say is that if London's flavor-of-the-day, the Darkness, can headline tours on multiple continents, maybe Ginger does actually have a legitimate beef. This doesn't mean that I have to love the band or even this album, but even I'll admit the Wildhearts are capable of churning out songs that have the ability to capture mass appeal.

Rating: B-

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© 2004 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Gearhead Records, and is used for informational purposes only.