Album Review: Ginger Wildheart – “Headzapoppin”
As life’s problems go, being short of something new to listen to from Ginger Wildheart certainly isn’t one of them. This year we’ve already had a new Wildhearts album (with an additional mini-album due in a couple of month’s time), Ginger’s latest country/folk effort The Pessimist’s Companion and now a more traditional, if you can call it that, Ginger solo release, Headzapoppin.
Announced out of the blue and released for download a few days later (with a physical release scheduled for the autumn), Ginger’s tenth solo studio effort (if you only count ones he’s released in his own name) is a sequel of sorts to 555% and Albion with a bit of the G*A*S*S* days thrown in for good measure, only this time Ginger has taken the Hey! Hello! route and performed the whole thing himself. Keeping up so far? Good.
It’s a refreshing rarity to hear a record with zero preconceptions and accompanied by a riff akin to Molly’s Chambers by Kings Of Leon, Meet My Killer is a more than welcome opener. There’s a bit of We’re Outta Here tucked away in there, a touch of I-N-T-E-R-N-A-L Radio perhaps, alongside a whole host of foot-tapping wonder, setting the stall out nicely for the album that follows.
Catch That Stranger is part Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow, part Mutation meltdown in its twisty-turny groove that impales itself on an Aerosmith guitar part towards the end, while Saturday Matinee‘s synth interlude wouldn’t be out of place on the Stranger Things soundtrack. It’s these constant swerves that make the 40 minute record a compulsive listen, leaving you wondering whether Ginger is about to rip his throat to shreds or croon you off to sleep with a lullaby with the passing of each track.
As an album that’s very much about this exact point in human existence, Yorvick (My Hood) is one of a few songs on Headzapoppin that focuses on Ginger’s current situation, telling a tale of the frontman’s current hometown of York via its crooked streets and welcoming locals in charming fashion. It’s something the Wildhearts frontman has been successful with in the past as his Geordie lilt perfectly romanticises subject matter by finding the good in things; no mean feat considering the amount of bad that’s been thrown his way throughout his life. Boxes does a similar job, taking the listener on a journey from birth to death via the most simple of items, in a thought-provoking yet insanely catchy way.
With a chorus that builds like Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Love Is is a beautifully warm tune that hits you right in the feels like so much of Ghost In The Tanglewood did previously as it dichotomises bitterness and hope. As Theodos Spoke meanwhile features the most Wildhearts-y riff here, but just as the band have done many times over the years, the song veers off into so many different styles you’d be forgiven for thinking a new song’s started before it reverts back to its original musical cues.
Pound Coins & Kitchen Rolls sounds on paper (no pun intended) like it’s going to be a downbeat tale but with its Westward Ho!-esque jauntiness it’s actually quite a happy story of battling back against the odds and the semi title track Zap is an apt album closer, a fast-paced pop-rock belter about the struggles of mental health, loneliness and feeling trapped but also, most importantly, survival.
As the album ends, the only question that remains is how these songs would sound live. For the vast majority, you can picture Ginger, guitar slung low, belting out the spoken word parts through a megaphone, dancing around to the upbeat tunes or shredding through the intricate licks effortlessly. It’s a great image, and one that’ll leave you salivating to see the results; time for a reformation of the Ginger Wildheart Band to get this record out on the road?
A natural follow up to 555% and Albion with a few other nods to his more recent output thrown in, Headzapoppin is a likable, accessible record from Ginger and one that's full of life-affirming moments. Keeping the honesty of his recent country/folk records but with an infectious optimism stirred well in, Headzapoppin is a glorious pop-rock outing that demands your attention.