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The Wildhearts
The Ga Gas
04/03/2004
4/5: Top BogRating:

Sometimes, you can really feel for a band, even if stylistically they’re not your particular glass of firewater. Just by the looks on their faces you can tell that what's happening up there is one of those magical moments that makes all the crap that bands have to deal with worthwhile because they’re playing to a crowd that might be there to see someone else but love them at first sight nonetheless. The band’s reaction is to put everything they’ve got into it in order to achieve that climactic moment when it’s as good as it could possibly ever get and both band and audience are as one. Within seconds of arrival onstage, that’s exactly how The Ga Gas project themselves and if they’re not actually loving every second, then they’ve got pretty much everyone fooled.
The Ga Gas make the sort of music that’s borne from overindulgence and avoiding daylight. Tough, raucous cock-rock with a permanent hard-on, it’s part Ritchie-era Manics, part Foo Fighters, part Idlwild, part G’n’R, even The Wildhearts, and I swear I heard a Prong riff once or twice but it could be my warped imagination. Whatever you liken them to, The Ga Gas have an instantly familiar but totally welcoming ‘classic’ quality to their sound, turning tracks like the bawdily bitchy “Sex” into catty anthems of arrogance and sleaze.
Frontman and guitarist Tommy is the sort of fragile, raven-haired pretty-boy who’s arse wouldn’t last five minutes in prison, but the guy gives it some serious attitude regardless. Shaking his impossibly silky barnet and throwing shapes with almost self-parodying levels of decadence, the lad’s simply gorgeous and just lurves to pose, so it’s hardly surprising that he’s got the teenage girlies at the front collectively foaming at the lips. Vocally, he’s nothing spectacular, at best a rough Scott Weiland with a slightly feline twang, but he seems to reek of chic and that ‘indeterminate sexuality’ that Brian Molko used to do so well, so you have to look beyond that and see the guy’s star potential, which is as bright as the lights reflecting off his fretboard inlays.
The grungy Alice In Chains/Stone Temple Pilots bile-rock of “Replica” and the wailing ballad of harmonic Americana “Jessica”, show a moodier, deeper, more thoughtful side to The Ga Gas which is as surprising as it is involving. Still dripping with sweat and spite, as is all their material, they demonstrate an ability to comfortably shift gear without risking their collective power, so leaping back into fist-raising anthem territory with “The Real World” seems perfectly natural and admirably slick.
The Ga Gas are not doing anything you haven’t heard a hundred times before. They’re nothing new, and hardly innovative, but they’ve got huge amounts of class, making it worthy of the utmost respect. It’s music that the pretentious will hunt for excuses not to like, but more fool them because there’s nothing wrong with enjoying quality for the sake of it. The Ga Gas are going to get better and carry on getting better until such time as they become unbearably smug, but until then just take the opportunity to enjoy a band that are humbly astonished by how good they are.
Is it really thirteen whole years since Ginger and his newly accumulated cronies were irritatingly arrogant wankers hanging around the Marquee and the Astoria bar every Friday night bumming cigarettes and drinks and trying to cop off with other people’s girlfriends? Time certainly goes fast and although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when they qualified for entry into the realms of classic British bands, they’re in there nonetheless. Young upstarts comparatively, but still members of the club. A great British institution? Yeah, to a point. But so’s Broadmoor, except that they’ve got a lower turnover of crazies going through the doors.
You see, whoever’s in The Wildhearts these days isn’t that important, as cruel as it sounds. It’s always been Ginger’s show and always will be, so there’s no point in challenging the man because he’s fantastically good at what he does. He’s a British cult icon that annoys people because of his staunch determination to do things his way and reluctance to grow up more than is absolutely necessary, though enough people seem to like and even begrudgingly admire that to enable him to carry on until he drops. Even more irritatingly, he probably will, because like Lemmy, Ginger’s an instantly recognisable and formidable character who just refuses to die or be written off because the world would be a duller place without him. Split, reform, split, get a new band, split, start over, split, whatever. He’ll always have to come back to doing what he does best and it seems that he’s accepting that these days.
Ginger has fucked up and been somewhat careless on countless occasions but has never compromised and The Wildhearts have always been consistently reliable at producing quality music, even if there have been the occasional moments of unsteadiness. It matters not who’s doing it, as long as they feel that instantly recognisable Wildhearts vibe, but it’s a pleasure to report that the latest operating system ‘Wildhearts version 2004’ does the job in fine style. Nowhere near flawless, but hey, they’re still seeing how it goes and checking for bugs. This is just a friendly low-key bash to get things going again, so we’re not expecting anything more. When you think about it, it’s quite an honour.
“I Wanna Go Where The People Go” kicks things off in typically dependable style and although hindered by a somewhat muddy sound, it adds to the sweaty hi-energy exuberance of the evening.
“Thanks for coming to this…er…toilet!” the foul-haired Geordie quips disdainfully. “We’ve played some shitholes before, but this is the first time we’ve played a pisshole!”, he continues before “Greetings From Shitsville” sticks two grubby fingers up at nobody in particular. It sums up The Wildhearts arguably more succinctly than any other tune in their crazy history and it’s somehow perfect to have it at this early stage as it sets the pace and allows them to concentrate on spreading their high points evenly, because if nothing else, The Wildhearts are a band that always remind you just how many quality songs they have. Newer tracks like “Top Of The World” stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of “Suckerpunch” and “Caffeine Bomb” and go to show that there’s not just life in the old dog, they’re still capable of biting you on the arse.
The Wildhearts would probably lose some of their impact if they allowed their sets to be reduced to the level of kitsch ‘greatest hits’ shows and they’ve always been a band that do whatever the mood requires rather than planning a slick cabaret of crowd pleasers. Why the hell should they have to play “Turning American” when “Beautiful Thing You”, despite being a b-side, is a far superior tune? Why indeed, and like every Wildhearts set, there’s no such thing as an obvious omission, just a tasty selection for the occasion which isn’t even decided upon until the moment arrives.
The Wildhearts 2004 are rough around the edges but solidly good. They’re just as valid as they ever were and make you somewhat proud to be British in a fucked up kinda way. Go see ‘em on tour with Therapy and The Glitterati, because if nothing else it’ll bring out the patriot in you.


Paul Mills
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