A little over two years since their last studio album, Renaisance Men (in that time there’s also been the Diagnosis EP and 30 Year Itch live record), The Wildhearts are back with another 45 minutes or so of their typical kind of joyous punk metal racket, 21st Century Love Songs.
Starting where Renaissance Men left off and not letting up for a moment the title track opens things with jagged guitars, a fine bass groove and a classic rant from Ginger Wildheart that makes this something of an unexpected LGTBT punk metal anthem.
Lead single Remember These Days continues in a similar vein with a healthy dose of nostalgia thrown in and possibly a slightly more straightforward structure before Splitter takes them to possibly the punkiest and most metal they’ve ever sounded, with a slide guitar thrown in for good measure that reminded of some moments from Ministry’s output over the years.
This level of intensity continues through Institutional Submission, capturing the sound of a band angry at the world but with an excellent point to make as it sounds like the Ginger who gave us Mutation has joined the party in a fit of excellent rage.
Sleepaway then shifts the tone somewhat and brings something of a blessed relief with Ginger and CJ’s famous harmonies and melodies coming to the fore along with some of the classic rock sounds heard on their last two studio releases.
You Do You maintains the poppier punky feel with something of a throwback to classic Wildhearts sounds but with the new power they’ve discovered recently included while also tackling some of the issues around the pandemic in surprisingly positive fashion.
Sort Your Fucking Shit Out is a fabulously blunt title for a track that feels like Ginger having a rant at himself but contains a lot of good messages for anyone else listening and, as ever with his recent work, it’s great to hear mental health issues dealt with in such a direct and unashamed manner.
After a poppier few tunes Directions goes back in a more metal direction with its opening before things get angular and groovy again and it all gets a bit political, in a good and not preachy way, before Physical Exorcism is another high energy rocker that captures its feelings of relationships and mental health issues in its music as much as its lyrics.
Them we end with My Head Wants Me Dead which again feels like we are getting a direct view into the frontman’s mind and it’s at once scary, melodious, jarring and fabulous, rather like his music, and is quite an experience to end the album on that pulls in pretty much everything we’ve heard elsewhere on the record into one place.
21st Century Love Songs then feels like a direct follow up to Renaissance Men far more than any other two Wildhearts albums have ever felt like they follow on from other, likely I suspect that this is the first time, to my knowledge, that the same line up have worked together with the same producer in the bands history.
That said it very much stands on its own two feet as a record too and there’s not a duff track on here – time will tell if any become classics, and I’ll be honest that normally only becomes clear once the band have taken the tunes out on tour a couple of times, but on first impressions it’s another great entry in their 32 year back catalogue and I’m looking forward to getting into it deeper as time goes on.
Live photos by Mark Ellis