I’m quite surprised that I haven’t already done this, because The Wildhearts were the first band I ever saw and are still one of my favourites, but here’s a Discography for them…
Mondo Akimbo a-Go-Go/Don’t Be Happy… Just Worry (1992)
I’m reviewing their first two EPs together because that’s how they come nowadays in a combined package called Don’t Be Happy… Just Worry. Both are an awesome introduction to ‘The Wildhearts Sound’, with not a weak track on them and some that still rank amongst their best, like the epic Turning American, Liberty Cap and Weekend (5 Long Days). The production values are fairly lo-fi, but that only adds to the charm really.
Earth vs The Wildhearts (1993)
A classic debut album as good as almost any you’ll find in British rock music, even if you’ll probably rarely see it described as that in mainstream music magazines. Literally any of the tracks on here could have been singles, and in the end Greetings From Shitsville, TV Tan, Suckerpunch and Caffeine Bomb (not on the original release, but added a year later) were put out. One of the main highlights though is the deliriously entertaining My Baby Is A Headfuck, notable for being the last recording of legendary guitarist Mick Ronson. A fitting way to go out and an incredibly confident debut album.
Fishing For Luckies (1994)
This is where it starts to get confusing. Fishing For Luckies was a mini-album originally only available to fan-club members and it was utter genius, ranging from a folk singalong in Geordie In Wonderland to lengthy pop-rock-outs on Inglorious, Schizophonic, Do The Channel Bop and the sci-fi-tastic Sky Babies. Ginger’s song-writing was reaching incredible heights at this stage, combining gorgeous melodies with skull-throbbing riffs, and you couldn’t possibly pack more into just six songs than he did here.
This is where it starts to get messy. Guitarist CJ was sacked during the making of p.h.u.q. and there would be plenty more line-up changes along the way before another settled band was established. However, it didn’t really affect the quality of the music on the second album proper, with I Wanna Go Where The People Go getting into the top twenty, and there was plenty of other crackers on there. I even named my first email account after the catchy Nita Nitro, while Caprice is one of Ginger’s best heavy material and In Lily’s Garden showed a softer side.
Fishing For More Luckies (1995)
Back here again? Yep, after the success of I Wanna Go Where The People Go, record label EastWest decided to cash-in by bringing Fishing For Luckies to a larger audience. Unfortunately, they did so by tacking on some demos at the end to turn it into a full-length release, which didn’t impress the band much and led to quite a falling-out. The release got cancelled at the last minute.
Fishing For Luckies (1996)
AGAIN?! Yes, except this time it was a full-length album, planned and authorised by the band, released on a different label and with a different cover. Ditching the singles that had been released from the original, The Wildhearts replaced them with six new songs, including cracking new singles Sick Of Drugs and Red Light Green Light. I first saw them on the tour for this album, so it definitely holds a place in my heart, even if some of the new material doesn’t quite live up to the rest of it.
Endless Nameless (1997)
With Fishing For Luckies finally behind them, The Wildhearts moved on in a big way with their next release, covering their trademark sound with distortion, sonic booms and noise-rock production techniques. At first it sounded like a car crash, but each listen peeled away the white noise to reveal the great songs at its heart. There was even a more diplomatic approach to lead vocals, with Danny, Jef and Ritch all getting to sing, even on singles Anthem and Urge, not that either of them were poppy enough to bother the charts much. Looking back, Endless Nameless is one of the best Wildhearts albums.
Landmines And Pantomimes (1998)
Unfortunately, while the band had seemed in good shape, they were actually falling apart and split up before doing a full tour for Endless Nameless. A year later, EastWest cheekily put out this compilation of unreleased b-sides and demos, much to the annoyance of Ginger. Most of it was already around on bootlegs anyway, and the songs largely don’t sound ‘finished’, but it’s still a decent enough collection of tracks.
Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff (2002)
Happily, The Wildhearts got back together in 2001 with the Earth Vs line-up, meaning a return for CJ and drummer Stidi. The first release was this mini-album featuring cracking new singles Vanilla Radio and Stormy In The North, Karma In The South, along with some tracks that were used as b-sides. Overall, a very welcome return and obviously a fantastic name.
The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed (2003)
Another great album title, but not actually another great album. The Earth Vs line-up had disintegrated a little already with long-term bassist Danny’s drug problems getting the better of him, and there seemed to have been a decision at a song-writing level to focus on three-minute pop songs more than the lengthier, louder tracks, and it end up being a little anaemic. Sure there’s some great stuff on there (Vanilla Radio again, So Into You and Top Of The World), but the overall feeling is that The Wildhearts weren’t quite firing on all cylinders.
Coupled With (2004)
If …Must Be Destroyed was an attempt to get some airplay with more radio-friendly music, a jokey cover of the Cheers anthem certainly worked for them, and it appears on this collection of b-sides from the post-reform era. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the mixed-bag quality of the album proper, there’s both good and mediocre stuff amongst the b-sides, making this a worthy addition to the collection, but not essential.
The Wildhearts (2007)
15 years since their first release seems like an odd time for a self-titled album, but The Wildhearts were back on top form for it (with drummer Ritch back in the fold and bassist Scott Sorry making for a seemingly stable line-up), so it’s a fairly appropriate title. Opening song Rooting For The Bad Guy is worth the price of admission alone, combining the light and dark sides of Wildheart music better than any track since p.h.u.q. and sets the tone for the rest of an album that isn’t afraid to riff for the sake of it and is certainly very heavy in places. Lead single The Sweetest Song was never going to bother the charts with its almost constant swearing, but the band clearly didn’t care anymore and were all the better for it.
Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before, Vol.1 (2008)
They followed that up quickly with a covers album. Ah, that old chestnut. But it’s actually a good covers album, perhaps not surprisingly for a band whose ode to the acts who inspired them (29x The Pain) is one of their most enduring anthems despite being just a b-side. So, with songs from the likes of Warren Zevon, Soul Asylum, Fugazi, Helmet, The Descendents and criminally underrated 90s BritRock bands Foil and Baby Chaos, there’s lots to enjoy here as well as lots of bands to explore afterwards, which I think is exactly the point of an album like this.
The Wildhearts went back into indefinite hiatus last year, so at the moment this is their last release. Hopefully they’ll be back because they ended this spell of their career on a high note with another excellent album. In both style and quality, it fits somewhere between …Must Be Destroyed and their self-titled album, mostly made up of shorter songs but with more memorable material. It took a little while to sink in for me, but The Wildhearts don’t really do ‘disappointing’, so it clicked in the end. Come back soon, guys!