Back in April, when The Wildhearts released their ninth full length studio album Renaissance Men, we stated firmly that they are the best British band of the last 30 years. This week, they’ve pretty much hammered that fact home by putting out Diagnosis — an EP but essentially an extended single for the song of the same name.
We also said in April that their worst B-side is better than most bands’ hit singles, and this release proves exactly that. Six tracks of incisive, melodically insistent metallic, punky rock & roll. At this point, it’s clear that Ginger and his gorgeous gang have stumbled onto some sort of songwriting chalice, or they sold their soul to Satan at a roundabout in Newcastle, England. We hesitate to say “blueprint,” because each song is so magnificently crafted with its own unique identity, there’s nothing blueprinty about them.
The opening title track we know because it was on that full lengther earlier in the year, though it’s worth remembering what a glorious show of strength in the face of mental illness and depression it is:
“Read ’em and weep, you’re asleep at the wheel
The system is fucked and your treatment’s corrupting the deal
You are not your diagnosis
You’re not that prescription in your hand
You are not your diagnosis
Simplified for them to understand.”
But of course it’s the five new songs that we’re more interested in. Because these are tunes that for whatever reason weren’t included on Renaissance Men. Which either means that they were recorded after the album’s release, suggesting that The Wildhearts are on a remarkable run even for them. Or that these are their studio outtakes, which is a staggering notion given the quality on offer.
“God Damn” builds and builds to a devastating climax, with the band simultaneously chanting and pleading “God — Damn — My — Life.” It’s amazing, the way Ginger can make you smile while breaking your heart with lyrics that just land, time and again.
“A Song About Drinking,” with it’s machine gun delivery, is initially reminiscent of old Wildies favorite “Caffeine Bomb,” before driving in its own direction with a “can’t stop won’t stop” refrain. Meanwhile, the album isn’t without hope. “That’s My Girl,” though laced with barbs, features lyrics like “She’s so fine, she’s always on my mind,” sweet, honest and very real.
Of course, this being The Wildhearts, the rainbows and unicorns are immediately pissed on with the following, and closing, “LOCAC” — a slab of psychoanalytic brute force trauma. “Are you being honest with yourself,” asks Ginger as the crunch consumes you.
It’s another Wildhearts rollercoaster ride then. Emotional ups and downs framing sweet melodies and fuck-you-up noise.