Since beginning his relationship with Pledgemusic on the Triple Album Project that became the sprawling 555%, Ginger Wildheart has become one of the most prolific releasers of music I’ve ever witnessed. From his solo work through to the side projects like Hey!Hello! and Mutation it has seemed like a near constant stream of music has been pouring from the ‘Geordie in Wonderland’ into the ears of his eager fans.
In 2014 this led to the setting up of G.A.S.S. – essentially a fanclub that, along with a host of optional extras, came with a selection of new music released on a monthly basis. As the project reached its conclusion this music was condensed down into the 12 track, commercially released, album Year of the Fan Club that essentially acts as something of a continuation of the stream of albums that started with Valor Del Corazon in 2005 to (so far) Albion in 2013 that preceded this, though it also shares a fair chunk of DNA with the earlier Break In The Weather compilation from the Singles Club project.
Given the nature of its creation this is a very varied album, even by Ginger’s standards and, taken as a whole is something like Kiss and ELO having a scrap with Trent Reznor overseeing while the amassed heads of 80s and 90s indie rock throw in their advice from the sidelines. In that it is pretty much what you’d expect from an album of this nature but amidst this sonic variety a few tracks really stand out.
Down The Dip starts things out with Ginger’s trademark rock guitars that remind us of The Wildhearts’ heyday, but with the glammier and poppier end of things turned up as has come out in some of his solo work and set the scene for what we’ve become used to.
This is followed by the undeniable ‘single’ of the set, the Courtney Love featuring Honour, that is as precise a piece of punky pop as Ginger has released in a long time. The combination of Love and Ginger’s voices works really well here, in a manner similar to Hey!Hello!, and with Ginger’s empowering lyrics coming from Love it creates something of a perfect storm of upbeat pop-rock with an interesting depth if you want to find it.
Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now is another highlight in a rather different way as it sways from upbeat to angry both lyrically and musically in a manner those who’ve heard the rest of Ginger’s output will be familiar with. It also seems to fall into a loose group of songs about some of the more frustrating elements of the music industry along with Hey!Hello!’s How I Survived The Punk Wars and Don’t Stop Loving The Music.
Along with the glam-pop and punk rock, Ginger also finds time for a couple of country tinged numbers highlighted by If You Find Yourself In London Town that offers a continuation of his love/hate (though I’d go with mostly hate) relationship with England’s capital that first showed itself on The Wildhearts’ Greetings From Shitsville.
Here though things are less outright angry and come more in the form of some advice for people heading to the city for the first time. This comes with a strong ring of truth and experience that give it the authenticity of the best country, albeit in a very different setting.
Toxins & Tea sounds like a riot in a fun fair decrying pretty much every negative aspect of humanity in the modern age but with a wit and sense of fun that elevates it from the polemical. This is closely followed by Mr T & Me that feels something like a follow-up to Jake (from the Yoni album) and, in a rare moment, seems to deal directly with Ginger’s family life.
Ostracide rounds off the album much like it began with thunderous heavy glam rock which, after the stylistic meanderings, is a good way to re-ground and a good point to end things.
As a complete album, Year of the Fan Club is, understandably, all over the place, but in that there are a few gems that seem to hint at potential things to come and, while not every song is a knock out, as ever it shows an artist working with a great level of freedom that is always good to see in something away from the small-scale DIY scene I am more used to writing about.