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Chutzpah!

The Wildhearts

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Album Review

After satisfying their cover band urges with 2008's Stop Us if You Think That You've Heard This One Before, Vol. 1, the Wildhearts rekindled their own wonderfully eclectic songwriting ways on the following year's purposefully named Chutzpah, the group's eighth studio album. In fact, it finally seems as though the band's troubled musical genius, Ginger, has come to accept his cult instead of worldwide stardom, because after crashing and burning so spectacularly in the late '90s, the Wildhearts have unexpectedly settled into an improbably stable second career groove. Well, relatively speaking. Anyway, Chutzpah picks up where 2003's violently intense rebirth, The Wildhearts Must be Destroyed, and 2007's back-to-basics eponymous album suggested it might: with an increasingly confident return to the band's metallic-sized power pop roots, warped, as always, by any number of exciting twists along the way. So longtime devotees need look no further than tunefully infectious numbers like "The Only One," "You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane," "You Took the Sunshine from New York," and a potential all-time classic in "Mazel Tov Cocktail," to be reminded that no band can touch the Wildhearts' as deserving heirs to Cheap Trick's black-humor power pop crown. Another key facet of Chutzpah finds Ginger and co. embracing technology via the elbows-out dance-rock of "Plastic Jesus" and the submarine synth bleeps of "John of Violence"; but sheer insanity doesn't enter the laboratory until the closing title track's Dada-esque, electro-thrash-ambient Frankenstein challenges listeners to make heads and tails of its intentions before it rises off the slab and eats them. And in a curious marketing ploy, the Wildhearts decided to reserve the weirdest creations from the Chutzpah sessions (plus some additional melodic rock outtakes) for a bonus disc entitled Chutzpah Jnr, which was initially distributed only in Japan and to fans who attended the band's December 2009 tour. Here, the aforementioned title track devolves into a frenzied cheerleader chant of its dictionary definition; the deceptively named "The Snake, The Lion, The Monk" lets a gaggle of screeching chimps handle backing vocals; and "Vernix" changes persona numerous times before rolling out a rap section. In short, Chutzpah and its Jnr. counterpart satisfy both yin and yang of the Wildhearts' legacy, with that scintillating blend of irresistible hooks and uneasy feeling of impending danger that still makes Ginger's songs stand out amid the rock & roll wasteland.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and War

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Wildhearts were the kind of band that the British rock press has wet dreams about: creatively brilliant, completely out-of-control, and utterly doomed from day one. Led by charismatic lunatic Ginger, the group's turbulent career lived up to the highest (or lowest, as it were) expectations, with all the ups and downs of a roller-coaster ride, which, after numerous frightening twists and turns, finally derailed in...
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Chutzpah!, The Wildhearts
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