Album Review: Ginger Wildheart – “Year Of The Fanclub”
It’s no secret that fan funding gave Ginger Wildheart’s career a whole new lease of life. The huge success of the groundbreaking Pledgemusic campaign for triple album 555% has afforded the notoriously prolific songwriter the kind of creative freedom he has always craved, thanks in no small part to the unswerving loyalty of his community of hardcore fans. The last few years have seen further Pledge campaigns for Hey! Hello! and Mutation as well as another solo record, the wonderful Albion. For an artist like Ginger, always looking for new ways to connect with his fans, G.A.S.S. was the next logical step.
Year Of The Fanclub is Ginger’s pick of the best tracks from the G.A.S.S. project. Essentially an online fanclub, the Ginger Associated Secret Society offered subscribers, amongst a plethora of other things, 36 brand new songs over the course of twelve months. Now for many artists the challenge of producing that sheer amount of material in such a short space of time, coupled with the knowledge that anyone prepared to sign up to twelve months of your music is already going to be pretty devoted, could lead to some quality control issues. For that reason it’s an absolute joy to be able to say that Year Of The Fanclub represents some of the best music Ginger Wildheart has ever put his name to. No lie.
If you have been a fan of Ginger’s music at any point over the past twenty odd years, there will be something for you to enjoy here. As you would expect, picking tracks from the sheer wealth of material G.A.S.S. has to offer makes this record a pretty diverse collection. You want riffs? Album opener Down The Dip or the mighty Ostracide has them in spades, delivering the kind of complex musical workouts fans of The Wildhearts have come to love. Elsewhere, there are pop rock gems like Honour (a duet with Courtney Love and arguably the best song she has put been involved with since Celebrity Skin era Hole) and punk numbers like Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now, full of energy and wit.
Some of the most interesting moments here though are when Ginger tackles less familiar musical territory. If You Find Yourself In London Town sound like a world weary elder relative of The Wildhearts’ Geordie In Wonderland, and Toxins & Tea pairs a brilliantly venomous rant to a marching band beat, complete with brass section. The folky The Pendine Incident is a highlight, showing off Ginger’s gift for storytelling through a tale of a chance encounter with an interesting character with some great life advice.
Lyrically, Year Of The Fanclub features some of Ginger’s most intensely personal songs to date. Never one to shy away from the subject of depression, Do You? tackles the issue head on, and it’s one of the great talents of Ginger’s song writing that he makes a difficult subject strangely uplifting by tying it the most gorgeous of melodies. The Last Day of Summer pairs a rumination on growing older with a glorious pop chorus.
Criminally omitted from the pledge version of the album, it’s great to see Don’t Lose Your Tail, Girl included on the official release. A nine minute epic that effortlessly shifts through styles and tempos in a way that make The Wildhearts Sky Babies seem as straightforward as a Ramones song, it’s a perfect album closer and a fantastic example of the talents of one of Britain’s best and most underrated songwriters.
Year Of The Fanclub is a fantastic album, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. If you like what you hear, you owe it to yourself to check out G.A.S.S. where there’s another 24 tracks waiting that are every bit as good as the ones here. And that’s before you even get started on the rarities and demos, podcasts, diaries, videos, artwork...I could go on. What a year!