Huzzah for Chutzpah!
The Wildhearts have been on a good run of form in the last few years, culminating in some of the best material of their career on 2007’s self titled album. The problem with that of course being that they have to follow it with something equally impressive! With ‘Chutzpah!’ they’ve been rather clever and adopted a slightly different approach that makes direct comparison difficult, sneaky but effective.
The last album (discounting the fun but hardly essential covers album) saw the return of the extended instrumental parts that have been so much a part of their trademark style with song lengths clocking in at anything up to eight minutes. Here they have made a firm effort to keep it down to three and a half minutes and it creates a whole different feel. Initial impressions are that it’s business as usual as album opener ‘The Jackson Whites’ is classic Wildhearts being pacey, heavy and melodic but from there on in there a few surprises. ‘The Only One’ showcases Bassist Scott Sorry’s newly discovered vocal talents and I must admit it does take a while to get used to hearing a different voice; coupled with the fact that this song is probably the most commercial sounding on the album it’s one of those tracks that you’ll want to hate but it’s infectious chorus is bound to be buzzing round your head after a couple of plays.
‘John of Violence’ returns to more familiar territory in the verse but again sweeps in with a commercial, catchy chorus and that’s really the difference on this album compared to their previous output. The Wildhearts have always had an ear for a good melody but they have never let the pop sensibilities come to the fore as much as they do here. ‘You Are Proof That Not All Women are Insane’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Honeycrack album but has some of the catchiest moments and after several listens is becoming one of the stand out tracks. Now don’t panic, they haven’t gone all soft on us, there are enough hard hitting moments to keep the diehards happy, ‘Tim Smith’ (presumably named after the Cardiacs frontman) is just stunning, the aggressive hard hitting verse giving way to an inspired chorus that is the real highlight of the whole record. It’s hard to believe that this track was nearly dropped for being too typical sounding!
‘You Took the Sunshine from New York’ is gloriously uplifting and reminiscent of a Ginger solo track and initially I don’t think it fits too well into the track listing but what it succeeds in doing over time is ensuring the variety that makes ‘Chutzpah!’ anything but predictable. ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’ is equally upbeat and really that’s the feel of the whole album, it’s all very positive and maybe that’s a direct result of a band that are finally realising their potential and quite rightly receiving long overdue recognition. Title track and album closer ‘Chutzpah!’ is the longest and the only one to employ the long instrumental breaks that have become synonymous with the band over the years.
Overall, ‘Chutzpah!’ is a damn good album but like most really good records it will take you plenty of listens to fully appreciate but once you do you’ll have it on constant repeat. Is it as good as ‘The Wildhearts’? It sounds like a cop out but it’s impossible to say, it’s like comparing ‘PHUQ’ to ‘Endless Nameless’, they are completely different animals. They seem to be on such a creative high at the moment that I’m already wondering where they’re going to go next. Let’s just hope they can keep this line up together long enough for us to find out.