Having released the Mutation double album, Hey!Hello! single album and touring with his own and Courtney Love’s bands in 2013 you might have thought that would be enough for anyone making music this year, well, two days before Christmas, Ginger Wildheart released Albion, the latest record released under his own name, and therefore the follow-up to 555%, through Pledgemusic.
Before I go any further my usual caveat on Ginger’s stuff that I am a long time fan and have pledged on this project so I guess that may add a bit of bias in my review, but, I have tried to look on this as evenly as I do any record (see my review of Mutation for proof that I don’t unconditionally love his entire oeuvre).
So onto Albion (Pledge Edition) which, at 15 tracks, is five longer than the one that will eventually be released commercially. From the start this album is clearly the follow-up to 555% in every sense and, while it has elements that reflect Ginger’s other output, it is very much the next in the line that began, in full album terms, on Valor Del Corazon.
Albion starts off in typically schizophrenic power-pop/rock style and opener, Drive, had me singing along by the half way point with its catchy hooks which were abruptly thrown into a vicious contrast by the storming blast beats of Cambria.
Across the record its clear that, while the songs are all the product of Ginger’s mind, the rest of the band he has put together over the last few years have all had their own input and impact on the record.
This is most notable in the vocals of Victoria Liedtke (the other half of Hey!Hello!), that counterpoint the frontman’s own voice excellently, and Chris Catalyst who’s input has led to a few songs having a strong sense of his song writing in Eureka Machines, this being particularly noticeable on Burn This City Down and adds an extra dynamic to the album’s sound.
This band feel also comes across in the increased presence of the piano and organ on Albion and this adds a real rock ‘n’ roll feeling in places. The Wildhearts had, at times, shown a similar feel, but it is something often missing from modern records and this made me realise what a strong part of rock ‘n’ roll the piano can be.
Amongst the 15 tracks there are certainly a few highlights. First is Chill Motherfucker, Chill which, with the line “Sometimes you’re the shit, other times you’re the pan” shows Ginger still has a unique way with words that, out of context or in the wrong hands, could be laughable but somehow works in his songs. Other highlights are Body Parts, which is an upbeat track that is probably the closest the album comes to a lead single and Beat Goes On, which comes close behind.
Across Albion the production is the best on any Ginger Wildheart album so far and at times the sound is huge with the title track in particular sounding like it’s designed for stadiums, although its acoustic coda shows where the heart and soul of all these songs comes from.
As with all albums from Ginger there are tracks which, to some, might be overlong, but as a fan they never out stayed their welcome for me and, compared to all of Ginger’s other ‘solo’ albums, this stands above for being generally more controlled, in terms of song and album length, which I think can only be a good thing as it retains its complex moments but in a much more digestible form.
Along with that the album has a much more upbeat feel than many of Ginger’s others which sits better with the pop element of the sound, though that’s not to say there isn’t still an angry streak here which Capital Anxiety shows off in fine form.
In the end, I doubt Albion will win over many new fans, as he seems to be a polarizing musical force at times, but it is the strongest selection released under the Ginger Wildheart moniker to date and, if you like power-pop/rock type sounds I’d strongly advise you to give it a go.