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Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn't know much about British rock band 'The Wildhearts' - but that all changed when I went to the Portsmouth leg of their UK tour and was given their latest album 'Chutzpah!' by fellow dooyoo'er 'tomflint'.
The Wildhearts have been around for ages - since 1989 in fact, but the current line-up has changed a great deal over the years. The mainstay and lead singer 'Ginger' (David Walls) has held things together, and although the band have split up a few times, the current line-up seems to be working well together.
The music of the Wildhearts could be described as a cross between 'The Foo Fighters' and 'Weezer' - mainstream rock, with American-Punk overtones. Having listened to much of their back catalogue and early work, I would say that the Wildhearts are an underrated bunch - never achieving the critical acclaim that they perhaps deserve.
Chutzpah! Is the ninth album studio album from the band who originally stem from Newcastle, and as a whole it's a fairly easy listening and pleasing collection of songs. The opening track 'The Jackson Whites' represents a heavy start to the album, and it's actually my favourite track. Its sound is more 'Nu-Metal' than the Wildhearts usually punkier vibe, and it actually works really well.
Past track one, the problem with the album in general is that there is an overly-processed sound, which makes the normally rough-around-edges Wildhearts resemble every other band in the same genre. That's not a criticism of the actual songwriting, as there are certainly some top quality tracks on Chutzpah!, but this perhaps represents an attempt to make the Wildhearts more accessible to those who aren't already familiar with the band. The second track 'Plastic Jebus' (yes it is 'JeBus'), perhaps cheekily refers to the way the band has jumped on the popular bandwagon in its lyrics... "I've been looking for a new direction... find the cheapest way of selling out"... or perhaps I'm just reading into things too much.
Some of the tracks on Chutzpah! seem a little disjointed when listened to consecutively - a couple of the Weezer-like songs are sung by bass-player Scott Sorry, and whilst he doesn't have the vocal range of Ginger, I suppose you could say that these numbers add a bit of variety to proceedings.
The album is fairly short with only ten tracks, adding up to a total of thirty-six minutes worth of music. Tracks of note include 'John of Violence', which is an interesting song featuring a range of subtle chord changes which make it a worthwhile listen. Similarly, 'Low Energy Vortex' is a pleasing number, featuring a balletic opening which has already become the Wildhearts 'lighters in the air' moment. Actually, once it gets going, Low Energy Vortex could easily be confused with a Foo Fighters track.
All in all, I was fairly impressed with Chutzpah!, even though it feels a bit too commercial in places and has the processed sound which I previously mentioned. That said, the basic songwriting skills provide enough hooks and catchy choruses to please most, and whilst the hardcore Wildhearts fans may not like its mainstream nature, on the whole Chutzpah! is a valiant attempt to endorse the band to a new audience.
1. The Jackson Whites 3:27
2. Plastic Jebus 3:16
3. The Only One 3:50
4. John of Violence 3:51
5. You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane 2:49
6. Tim Smith 3:28
7. Low Energy Vortex 3:28
8. You Took the Sunshine from New York 3:39
9. Mazel Tov Cocktail 2:58
10. Chutzpah 5:46
Chutzapah is the ninth official studio album from one of my all time favourite bands, The Wildhearts. Although being signed previously, they are now independent and this album was released through Backstage Alliance. This is also the first album they've created which consists of input from all members of the band - previously frontman, Ginger, did most (if not all) of the work himself, inlcuding both the songwriting, singing and guitar. Although it's undeniable that Ginger is a genius at what he does and is hugely underestimated, it's still interesting and more creative that they have worked much more communally on Chutzpah.
The first single from the album is called The Only One and while I don't personally think it's one of the stronger tracks from Chutzpah, it is still very enjoyable. Alternatively, this song was written and is sang by Scott Sorry, rather than having any to do with Ginger. The song has a great melody and strong British punk influenced style to it, but in all honesty, is very simplistic and not outstandingly original, whereas the rest of the album sounds modern and fresh.
The album kicks off with 'The Jackson Whites' which contains some great and very typical catchy and melodic Wildhearts guitar riffs with lots of changes throughout but one thing is immediately and instantly very clear - the production of the album has been brought up to date and sounds extremely smooth, especially in comparison to past Wildhearts releases. Plastic Jebus is another great track, full of melody and catchy riffs once again though I'm not quite sure why it's called Plastic Jebub, he actually says 'Jesus' on the chorus.
Once you've got into the slightly modernized feel of the album, you begin to realize that the classic Wildhearts style and cleverly consructed lyrics are still present, they've just been polished up a tad. Mid-way through the album the style seems to go back to it's roots a little with tracks like Mazel Tov Cocktail, You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane and You Took The Sunshine From New York - all tracks which seem to put a subtle smile on your face.
The most intersting track on this album is the final one, the tital track Chutzpah. It starts off with melodic vocals that have been clearly subject to the full effect of the vocoder, a technique which seems to be becoming every more popular in mainstream music today, especialy R&B, hiphop and the like. However, this is combined with some strong powerful and very catchy guitar riffs which seem to adapt through many combinations and variations that keep the music constantly adapting as it goes on. Sometimes it gets thrashy, sometimes it sounds chaotic and sometimes it just sounds cool. It's a very impressive romp indeed, there's no other word for it!
I remember hearing their last studio album for the first time, the 2007 self-titled The Wildhearts. It still blows me away right now every time I listen and it's difficult to beat. While Chutzpah is not quite as good as the previous release, it's still an outstanding album from an outstanding band with some great modern new touches and fresh original ideas that could pave the way of the future for a new wave of rock music.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Jackson Whites, The
2 Plastic Jebus
3 Only One, The
4 John Of Violence
5 You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane
6 Tim Smith
7 Low Energy Vortex
8 You Took The Sunshine From New York
9 Mazel Tov Cocktail