The Wildhearts have always been a willfully self-destructive band, and they have never been more so than back in 1997 when they released Endless Nameless. The line-up of Ginger, Danny, Ritch and Jef had come close to chart success with singles like Sick Of Drugs and Red Light Green Light off the revamped release of Fishing For Luckies, so naturally they were going to try and build on that, right? Were they hell.
Instead, they released the noisiest and most incoherent album of their career and imploded soon after. For a band who had always combined gorgeous melodies with crunching power chords, the feedback-drenched production of Ralph Jezzard seemed to be self-defeating, as the catchy pop tunes may have still been there in the background, but were well and truly buried by white noise and sonic booms. Some sneered that they were jumping on the industrial bandwagon of NIN and Ministry, but Endless Nameless sounds nothing like those bands.
Of course, all of this had been signposted by the two singles that were released before the album was released. Both Anthem and Urge were cracking songs, but sounded like nothing The Wildhearts had done before, not least because the lead vocals on them were not by Ginger, for the first time ever on officially released recordings (bassist Danny sang Anthem, while guitarist Jef sang Urge’s verses).
But still, it was a shock back in November 1997 when I got my copy of Endless Nameless in the post (a day late I seem to recall, though I can’t remember where I got it from) and listened to it for the first time. It didn’t help that I was quite ill at the time (the previous day my mum had to bring me home from Alton Towers after only a few hours because I felt so bad, and it took a lot for me not to want to stay there, even when I was 16…) but to say that it took a few listens to not hate it would be an understatement.
Even now, it is hardly easy listening, and it’s notable that the band dropped this approach when they reformed and almost never play any of it live (not helped by the fact that the vocalists on the two singles aren’t in the band anymore, of course). But Ginger has remained very proud of it, and not just because he’s an awkward bugger who is bound to like the ‘difficult’ album better than the ones all the fans love.
Endless Nameless isn’t their Metal Machine Music, no matter how much parts of it might sound like that. It’s an album packed with as many great songs as any other Wildhearts record, and it sums up their brave, defiant spirit perfectly as well as providing perfect listening for those days when things aren’t going so well and you want to hear some angry noise or a beautiful shimmery 10-minute epic closing song called Thunderfuck, with the refrain “…and with the world in his ass”.