NOISY ANOMALY FROM CLASS OF ’97
Tin-can drums, way high in the mix. Dry-bone guitars trebled to the max. Mega bass shocks and overamped noise. This is Anthem, the first single from Endless, Nameless.
Fuck me. What happened to the Wildhearts?
Where are the sticky sweet melodies and riff ‘n’ roll majesty of Earth vs… and P.H.U.Q.? The multi-part stretch-out of Fishing for Luckies, or the Motorhead speed scuzz of Caffeine Bomb? The TUNES, where are the tunes?
Gone. Bombed out.
This was a New Era for the Wildhearts, an era that sounded like the end. Before then, Ginger’s gang were a volatile technicolour splatter on a po-grunge backdrop, a gang who gave good chaos both on and off record – vids like this (nice vom) and stunts like this (nice Kerrang! visit) made sure of that, which would all count for knack-all if the music blew, but … it very definitely didn’t, as the albums and A-grade B-sides show. But if drugs, bust ups and breakdowns were standard operating procedure for this lot, by ’97 it had got a whole lot darker: band members fired (CJ), sort-of band members AWOL (Mark Keds), rehab yo-yo (Danny McCormack), attempted suicide (Ginger) – and Endless, Nameless masks none of it. Do a mood-check on this bunch of cheery-bastard titles: Junkenstein, Pissjoy, Heroin, Thunderfuck, Why You Lie?
What reading do you get?
PHUQ-ed off, probably. Far less fun than TV Tan for sure, but the titles are just the half of it. The real sign that Things Are Bad is the nihilistic production job that quarantines this album from everything else they’ve done. Some reviews give it the white noise tag, but that’s overstating it – it’s not Wolf Eyes, it’s the Wildhearts, and they’re still a of bunch of dirt glam hook-ers loaded with tunes and smash-it-up attitude no matter what state they’re in. There IS noise, though. It’s in the production, a permanent stimulation that kinda tires your head. For a song-based record, a record where you expect and get hooks, verses and choruses, it’s pretty rough on the senses.
Junkenstein fires a savage warning to any fairweather fan. By far the hardest Wildhearts tune released up to that point (outdone by Why You Lie? on side 2), it’s industrialised, thrashy, pissed off and vital – more a two-minute warning than a tune. What’s not to love? NOTHING.
Nurse Maximum pulls the tempo back down to mid, at least for the verse, in a bit of a cool-off after Junkenstein’s jarring abrasions, but when Anthem’s unsubtle clank makes its move, you wonder where the record’s going … Anthem doesn’t feel like killer Wildhearts and we’re already three tracks in. At this point on Earth vs The Wildhearts we’d had Greetings from Shitsville, TV Tan and Everlone. Classics all. PHUQ’s opening 1-2-3 was I Wanna Go Where the People Go, V-Day and Just in Lust. Same deal. EN’s third track is sung by Danny McCormack: ‘I’m in love with the rock and roll world.’
Not exactly Ginger-sharp wordplay, is it?
But although this literal ode to the rock and roll world might not fire rockets on first listen, it’s not quite the braindead slog you first think, either – with Danny on vox, the words have a more autobiographical bent, and when the tune’s rammed with so much anti-pop production that it all but destroys itself, it feels like a metaphor for the band, McCormack especially. A grower of sorts
Urge is no grower because it’s full-grown massive already, an instant shiner from the new dark Wildhearts. Check that slam-riffed mega shake, the in-and-out-of-sync verse (yet more overstimulation), the post-chorus bass-drum boooooom….yeah, the boom. Not the first appearance of this signature OTT Endless sonic, but it is the best – pure earth quaker, an on-the-one detonation. Rumour goes that part-time Wildheart/full-time metal-oid Devin Townsend used it for his own endless ends on Infinity, but whatever the story and however it came about, it ramps up the imbalance and no doubt cracked some roadwork for Ginger’s more out-there adventures, not least the mad-bad Mutation project.
By now, after four tracks, you know that things are not going to clean up. There will be no singalonga Nita Nitro, there will be no normal production. There will be a kids’ chorus, though – Piss, JOY, NAAA NA-NA NA-NA – and a wrecked cover of Dogs D’Amour’s Heroine (here called Heroin) with drums distorted to shit, vocals ditto, volume levels ragged. Wasted and louche. Why You Lie? is so feral that it strangles the air out of you, and by the time it disintegrates, you’re spent. Thunderfuck’s mellow gives some respite at the album’s end, but it’s a wearisome downer. The sound of engines, the smell of burning. Torch it. Torch the lot. Over and out.
Endless, Nameless is a Wildhearts one-off, but it’s as true as any album that copped their classic sound – perhaps even more so. Abrasive industrial rock, hand-made by damaged human flaw-beings, it sits tight with a couple of other 90s records that were destructive reactions to predecessors – Warrior Soul’s Chill Pill and Ministry’s Filth Pig come to mind. The Wildhearts returned to their own vintage when they next got their shit together, but this one’s the unruly brother, the one you can’t ignore. It won’t let you.
Keep it maximum.