Album Review: The Wildhearts – “Diagnosis”
Considering their previous album was released in 2009, The Wildhearts have certainly been on one hell of an unexpected roll of late. The band’s latest opus Renaissance Men was unleashed back in May to critical acclaim and was backed by a UK tour, festival appearances and plans for a jaunt around Europe. Part two of the UK tour was then scheduled for later in 2019, as well as a co-headline run in early 2020 with Backyard Babies. And in amongst all of this is the small matter of a new mini-album, Diagnosis, featuring five brand new tracks of musical mayhem.
Back in 1995, you would have seen the fan-favourite title track (originally featured on Renaissance Men) on the shelves of Our Price on 7”, 12″, cassette and CD accompanied by brand new b-sides. Times have changed though, as has how we consume music, but that hasn’t given the band an excuse to shortchange us. It’s just that rather than a slew of singles, here we get a download, CD and vinyl release pulling the whole lot together into one long(er) player; and what a mini-album it is.
Fans will be pretty well-acquainted with the anthemic Diagnosis itself, the song having quickly become a live favourite, and as a lead track it works brilliantly. A call-to-arms against the system and a flag-waving shot of optimism to boot, it’s part Motörhead riff monster, part Quo-boogie and ALL Wildhearts, with the hands-in-the-air sing-along chorus raising hairs on the back of the neck every time.
There was quite a bit of variety across Renaissance Men’s 10 tracks and it’s no different on this mini-album either, with the CJ-led God Damn sounding like something off of one of the guitarist’s recent solo albums, full of irresistible pop hooks and a snarly distorted vocal as it blasts through at a rapid pace that slows nicely into one of those familiar Wildhearts chugs.
A Song About Drinking does what it says on the tin with Danny leading us through a round of gang-vocalled punk that’s not a million miles away from the Yo-Yos. If it gets a live outing at some point, the song’s sure to become a favourite with the ‘never outdrunk, never outsung’ Wildhearts faithful whilst The First Time, a more thoughtful track, is no less endearing, sounding like something from The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed in its four minutes of sunshine-addled harmonies.
That’s My Girl is The Main Grains dialled up to 11, a short, sharp Ramones-y blast of good time punk ‘n’ roll that proves eminently likeable, while LOCAC is a distortion-fuelled next door neighbour to Endless Nameless, with some violent work from tub-thumper Ritch Battersby and the guitars of Ginger and CJ duelling against each other perfectly.
Fans of 29 x The Pain will know it’s rare to get a duff Wildhearts b-side, and we’re truly spoilt to get another five shiny new pop-rock bastards out of the quartet so soon, and songs that show off the talents of each individual member to boot. Judging by the past 30 years of output from the band, you’d expect nothing less, and as Ginger himself puts it on The First Time, ‘there’s a fire inside and it ain’t going out again’. And we, the music buying public, are all the better for it.
Far more than a stop-gap release, there are tracks on this mini-album that would comfortably sit alongside anything on The Wildhearts' past three or four LPs. The sound of a band at the top of their game, Diagnosis just makes you salivate even more for their next studio outing. Arriba!