Earlier this year, and for a different publication, I made the bold prediction that 2004 would be the Year of the Wildhearts. After years of band infighting, near self-implosion, shitty breaks and bad decisions, the stars were finally aligned for one of rock’s most underrated bands. They landed an opening touring slot for the Darkness (who once opened for the Wildhearts), released the excellent, aptly-titled Riff After Riff, are gearing up for an October live album (The Wildhearts Strike Back) and just generally seem to have their house in order. So why hasn’t the Year of the Wildhearts come to pass? Chalk it up to a fickle listening public, but through it all, the Wildhearts continue to build their unimpeachable discography, adding Must Be Destroyed, which was out last year in England, but only reached the states this past summer.
The Wildhearts may be the least-well-known band with the best batch of albums to their name working today. It’s amazing that, through all the band’s trials and tribulations, they’ve never released (in this writer’s humble opinion) a subpar album. While nearly all their previous albums are hard rock brimming with hooks (lead Wildheart / possible musical genius Ginger walks around with hooks falling out of his pocket) and a touch of pop metal, Must Be Destroyed inverses the formula: it’s hooky power pop with doses of hard rock. The obvious sonic comparison here is the Darkness, but if anything, the Darkness crib from the 11-years-and-going-strong Wildhearts. Fortunately, the two bands’ members are all good buddies; Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins guests on a few of Destroyed‘s tracks, and as mentioned, the bands have opened for each other at various points in their careers. The point is, Must Be Destroyed is a half-hour of insanely catchy rock tunes, and while ultimately a lightweight confection, it’s a worthy addition to the Wildhearts’ impressive canon of work.
Where to start? Opener “Nexus Icon”, the album’s heaviest, punkiest track, is one of those rare burden-of-celebrity laments that actually isn’t whiny (props to Ginger’s decision to put the song in third person, to say nothing of the punk fury that fuels the song). The rest of the album is super-hooky power pop that would make the guys in Cheap Trick bow in reverence. Love songs (“So Into You”), break-up songs (“There’s Only One Hell”), party songs (“Get Your Groove On”), and radio-sucks songs (“Vanilla Radio”), all the Wildhearts workout, and damned if all those songs don’t get stuck in your head for days on end. (Lone misstep: the overserious “One Life, One Love, One Girl” sounds like Ginger was trying too hard to come up with a love song, and plods in a way the Wildharts historically never have.)
There’s only a handful of bands that make you think, “If only people had a chance to hear this band, they’d be the biggest act in the world! ” At the risk of doling out over-effusive praise, the Wildhearts are one of those bands. Tuneful, muscular, clever, air-guitar worthy—they’re what the rock scene needs. They may have sabotaged themselves in the past, but with Must Be Destroyed, the Wildhearts are ready to save rock. 2004’s not over yet; with any luck, my prediction will still come true.