Album Review: CJ Wildheart – “Mable”
Another month, another Pledge album from one of the Wildhearts family. And let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way… While ‘Hearts frontman Ginger has been churning out a steady stream of albums, his right-hand man in the group CJ has been mysteriously quiet of late, until re-appearing on the scene at the Wildhearts’ reunion gig last December and subsequently announcing he had a new album in the pipeline via the Pledgemusic route.
The truth is that while Ginger has been keeping himself busy with various projects and tours, CJ has spent the last few years in semi-retirement following the most recent Wildhearts’ album Chutzpah!. And Mable is the story of those missing years, of the dread of actually having to get a nine to five job when the cash runs out and the horror it brings. There was, you’ll be pleased to know, a happy ending. CJ now lives up in GOC (Yorkshire to the unenlightened) making his own Devilspit hot sauce and keeping chickens (the album is named after his favourite one in the flock), far away from the breakneck speed of London life which colours a lot of this album.
The decision to bring in long-time CJ collaborator and Zen Motel frontman Lee Wray as producer was a wise choice. Wray is quickly getting a reputation for being a dab hand at this sort of thing (witness Zen’s We Want Your Blood album and the Dead Identities’ Bad Cats And Heart Attacks from a few years back) and he’s done another good job here, giving Mable a full and ferocious sound from the moment opener Better Late Than Never comes barrelling at you at 100mph. We’re quickly slung headfirst into the seamy underworld of working for shady franchise businesses as Down The Drain comes swirling through on an evil sounding bassline, followed by Next To You‘s frenetic tale of urban paranoia and the need to get down the pub to grab a pint and get away from it all come five o’clock.
Quite simply there isn’t a weak song on Mable and it only goes to show that CJ is a very underrated songwriter, from the workday blues of Kentucky Fried to the searing anti-drugs tirade of Devil. But it’s the two songs which bookend the album, opener Better Late Than Never and closer Midlife Crisis which point the way towards light at the end of the tunnel, making you grateful that CJ’s got out in one piece and that it’s given him the inspiration for a cracking album. Good work fella.
CJ was always the more pop-minded of the two Wildhearts mainmen and it definitely shows through on Mable (you can definitely hear shades of Honeycrack on here). Mix that with the dark but clear-cut production and it makes for a very good well-rounded effort which should be very near the top of your shopping list this month.