The Wildhearts - Chutzpah!
Backstage Alliance
Hard Rock
10 songs (36:32)
Release year: 2009
Official Website
Reviewed by Charles
This is a difficult review to write because this is my favourite band of all time, and I am in two minds about this record. This is the next step down various different roads established by 2007’s self-titled record. There’s something paradoxical about the way the band has become poppier, to an almost boyband-like extent at times, on the one hand, and simultaneously expanded their experimental side on the other. But they did it on that, and they’ve done it on this as well. On Chutzpah!, twistingly varied song structures and surprisingly complicated ideas sit alongside unnervingly cuddly pop-rock. (In fact, a couple of these barely even need the second side of the hyphen). But this is The Wildhearts, and so the juxtaposition is hardly an uneasy one. Ultimately, the construction of the songs themselves is of a lofty standard, even if moments seem jarring at first.

So here are the reservations. Sometimes, this is uncomfortably unthreatening. The Only One is a power ballad like you might expect to hear from an “alternative”-styled Pop Idol winner, and the fact that it’s sung by CJ rather than Ginger makes it sound even less like a Wildhearts song. You are proof that not all women are insane is very American pop-punk a bit like Fountains of Wayne, and the same could be said for the sickly-sweet You took the sunshine from New York. The other side to that is that, tunewise, these are great songs with clever melodies that stay in your head for ages. Listening to them is a bit like eating baby rusks. There’s something a bit wrong about it, but damn, they taste good all the same.

And then, there are the other developments. The last album closed with Destroy All Monsters; a baffling epic of oddly-timed, noisy and discordant metal riffs. And even in the midst of all the pop music the same ideas run right through Chutzpah!. Songs like John of Violence and Tim Smith switch tempos around dramatically between verse and chorus: the latter switches from harsh crunching metal to half-tempo mock-gospel in the space of a beat. It takes a while to get your head round, sounding jarring at first, and then it works. This is probably one of the record’s best tracks. Most intense of all is the title track; the longest one here and the album’s grand finale. I’ve described it as “’Nsync meets Nasum”, which is a total caricature, but it’s true that this features a recurrent vocoder line that does the first half of that equation justice. But hell, the whole track segues wildly into surreal tech death interludes, crushing doom grooves replete with actual funeral bell tolling, and moments of fury that could, indeed, almost pass for grind.

And the thing about all of this is that it gets better every time you listen to it. What at first seems jarring gets less so, and what seems too poppy becomes a great, if a bit lightweight tune, amply compensated for by some of its meatier neighbours. So the paradox I described above becomes simply a question of good old variety. This is a winner, but only if you can embrace the fluffy side of The Wildhearts without getting a rash.

Killing Songs :
Chutzpah!, Tim Smith, Low Energy Vortex
Charles quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by The Wildhearts that we have reviewed:
The Wildhearts - Earth Vs. The Wildhearts reviewed by Charles and quoted 95 / 100
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