2015 marked the 20th anniversary of The Wildhearts second full length album, P.H.U.Q., and the British rock four-piece marked that with a tour playing the album in its entirety (as released anyway) to packed houses of clamouring fans. During the tour they recorded a live version of the album which has now been released via lead man Ginger’s ongoing Round Records campaign on Pledgemusic.
If you’re a fan of the band (as I am, otherwise why would I have pledged) you’ll know P.H.U.Q. is, arguably, the band at their creative peak, though much of this was stifled by record company interference, a huge intake of drugs and much infighting. Quite which of these had the biggest effect is probably up for discussion but I’ll side with Ginger and say it was EastWest Records that caused the most problems, causing what could have been a double CD epic to be compressed somewhat into what was finally released. None-the-less the album contains some of the bands most recognisable and long-lasting songs.
Kicking off with the double pop-rock blast of I Want To Go Where The People Go and V-Day, played at super speed and with enough punch to fell a concrete elephant, Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung starts as it means to go on with the band clear of mind and body and preaching to the very much converted.
After these we get a bit of chat from Ginger sounding as relaxed as he ever has on stage before the first fully captured sing-a-long moment of the record on Just In Lust. Having been at the London leg of the tour I can confirm that every word was sung along by the crowd but of course, on the record we want to hear the band too and the balance between the two is spot on. So, the sing along passages are there in all their glory while in some places the crowd is a quiet background to Ginger and CJ’s always excellent harmonies – oh! and CJ’s guitar is perfectly audible throughout (in joke of the die hards there).
As it goes on the likes of Jonesing For Jones and In Lily’s Garden channel The Beatles’ more psychedelic moments through an arena rock filter while Caprice, Woah Shit, You Got Through and Naivety Play get the balance of The Wildheart’s trademark punk/metal/rock hybrid sound to a tee. All this combines to make this possibly the definitive sounding version of this record in many ways, though it would hardly be for me to say that, but this may well become my ‘go to’ version of P.H.U.Q. going forward.
As expected from The Wildhearts it has its expletive drenched moments (due to some of their content I find it sadly obvious this band never broke the mainstream, but I wouldn’t have it any other way) with the semi-spontaneous sing along Up Yer Arse Ya Fuckin’ Cunt, and this all helps to capture the atmosphere of the show and celebratory feel that it had in person.
Culminating with a football terrace-like sing along on Getting It the main record ends, like its studio counterpart, on a scream of ‘Shut Up’ cutting to appropriate silence.
At this point I’m not sure on the final physical commercial release track list but, on the digital Pledgemusic version, after a brief silence the sound of the crowd fades back up with them singing traditional encore call of Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me before the band launch back into something of a greatest hits shuffle, 5 song mini-set.
Here even the band fully join in the celebratory tone of the whole thing with Ginger encouraging lighters to be waved during the middle part of Weekend and Stormy In The North, Karma In The South coming across with a far more rock ’n’ roll spirit than it’s studio version. This is all closed off with 29x The Pain, a song that started life as a b-side but has become both the band and Ginger’s anthem celebrating the music that inspired The Wildhearts making for a fine set closer whenever it gets played, especially with The Duck Song sneaking in in its wake and undercutting any potential po-faced-ness with outstandingly silly fun.
While its hard to be entirely impartial here I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable live albums I’ve heard as it captures not only the music excellently, but also as much of the atmosphere and spirit of the event as well as it possibly could.
Put it on, turn it up, close your eyes and sing along as if you were there – so when’s the Fishing For Luckies or Endless, Nameless tour?