Released on his reactivated label Round Records, Ginger Wildheart is doing some very tuneful housekeeping with the release of G*A*S*S* Mark II…
Essentially a compilation of the leftovers of the profligate six stringer’s G*A*S*S* – Actually the man himself’s fave songs from the project according to the press release that accompanies the album – project from a couple of years ago, wherein he spent a year recording and releasing songs for a select band of fan club members (Ginger Associated Secret Society!) who pledged funds to the project, it’s actually also a very good Ginger primer, should you find yourself in the unenviable position of never having heard of the man and/or his vast body of recorded work.
He’s nothing if not eclectic; I first saw Ginger, flat on his back, guitar pointing defiantly skyward as he played, mind addled by God knows what, with the Quireboys at London’s Dominion Theatre way back in the mists of time (not there for myself, y’unnerstan’, but for the lady I was walking out with at the time), and I’ve willingly renewed My dealings with him through the years via his antics in pop metal stalwarts the Wildhearts through to his scattergun singer songwriter/band leader years in outfits such as Clam Abuse and Silver Ginger 5. All that variety is captured here in an engagingly madcap collection of rockers n’ballads that should slot comfortably into anyone’s record collection.
So the album opens with a grungy rocker, Friends of Bill, which is actually one of the least appealing tracks on offer. Much better are the prog pop of King Rat, which carries echoes of Steven Wilson in it’s world weary cynicism, or the absolutely captivating melodic folk punk of That’s a Nasty Habit You’ve Got There. Ginger’s brain must be literally teeming with singalong melodies, and you get a fair selection of them on this magnificent little track.
Caer Urfa follows this folk incline, being a fond look back at Ginger’s North Eastern origins, mixing another world weary lyric with uplifting melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on a Teenage Fanclub album. It’s top-notch stuff.
Next track Alvarado on the 2 is a beguiling mix of psychedelia and heavy guitars, but it doesn’t work quite as well as the previous couple of tracks. Right in the Feels, however, jangles and shines like a big power pop gift bag bulging with sonic treats; It’s understated, as much of Ginger’s best work is, his determinedly low-key vocal approach belying he wealth of melodic splendour on hand a couple of levels below the surface. Reminiscent of Welsh grunge popsters Feeder in melodic structure, if nothing else, the chiming guitars and heavily-layered vocals will bring out goosebumps all over your body if you’ve got two ears and a heart.
Petit Mort is simply stunning, featuring a female vocal uncredited on my copy of the album; this is a tragedy because whoever sings it adds a broken down, Dusty Springfield-styled glamour to the baroque pop on offer. It’s another spine-tingling track on a collection full of similarly-inspired moments. Next track Waves of Sadness is another melody-drenched slice of power pop, pleasing but not out of the top drawer, whilst Adrenalina is an abrasive, truculent guitar rocker built around squalling riffs and an eighties punk sort of verse structure that recalls names as diverse as the Cure and Bow Wow Wow. It’s the only track that doesn’t really work as far as this reviewer is concerned, although it’s sure to find favour with differently-aspirated ears.
Bloody Knees is the sort of kitchen sink opera metal that Devin Townsend has cornered the market in this century; However the Ginger version retains the metal (oh, how it retains the metal!) but ditches the dull geek-humour conceit, making it unutterably more palatable to non-geeks like me. Plus the guitar playing brings to mind massive seventies names like Zappa and Hillage, again making this track an irresistible proposition for old potheads and young metalheads alike. Is there a base anywhere in the rock playbook that Ginger doesn’t have covered?
Don’t Lose Your Tail, Girl, is a little overlong at nine minutes in length, though good ideas are scattered throughout the song, especially the bits that prompt recollection of pastoral British rockers XTC; More appealing is the penultimate track Don’t Stop Loving the Music, as good a call to arms for all of us here as I can think of. Ginger clearly hasn’t stopped, and this heartfelt, feedback and cymbal-drenched anthem proves, if proof be need be, that it’s music- in any style, that does indeed soothe the savage beast of the troubled psyche.
Of course, with all this musical complexity on offer, you’d opt to close with a song that brings to mind an ear-giddying mashup of Status Quo and Enuff Z’Nuff, right? Of course you would. And, of course, in the context of the aural opulence surrounding it, the bottles-in-the-air exuberance of I’ll Have Another is the only way t end an album like G*A*S*S* Mask II. Ginger, you’re eminently a one-of-a-kind freak of gargantuan proportions – and Sentinel Daily salutes you. Thanks!
G*A*S*S* Mark II will be released on November 16th.