Happy Birthday, Earth vs The Wildhearts

The following article is a preview piece from the 20th Anniversary shows by Mark Grainger. It was original published on the now defunct KYEO website and has been unavailable since the site closed, so I thought it deserved a permanent home…

This Friday I’ll be hopping in a car, turning up the stereo and heading West to Manchester in the name of live music. Y’see, this week, one of the North East’s finest rock exports, The Wildhearts, are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their debut album. That album, Earth vs The Wildhearts, is to be played from start to finish during a run of four shows across the UK, and trust me, if ever there was an album that deserved celebrating it’s Earth vs The Wildhearts.

Way back in the denim-clad days of 1993 when Earth vs was released there wasn’t really much for fans of rock and metal music to be cheering for. Iron Maiden were a year away from hiring an angry potato as a replacement for Bruce Dickinson, the Manic Street Preachers were still finding themselves and were a full year away from releasing their career defining opus, The Holy Bible and the biggest acts of the time seemed to be treading water with ‘best of releases and live albums (case in point, Maiden actually released three that year).

It was a pretty grim musical year all round to be honest, with only two real bright spots for the rock music; in the star spangled, plaid shirt wearing corner there was Nirvana‘s In Utero, and in a sweaty mess of hair, piss and riffs was Earth vs The Wildhearts. Dropped perfectly formed into the nation’s record shops in the August of 1993, Earth vs is notable for two reasons: Firstly it kicked off one of the most engaging and serpentine band narratives of a generation as the path that The Wildhearts took rarely ran smooth. Secondly, and most importantly,  it was fucking stonking from start to end.

Nobody could possibly have predicted that a mix of thrash metal, pop and punk could possibly work as well as it did and it’s a testament to the strength of the album as well as the devotion that  the band inspire that the anniversary tour is nearly entirely sold out. Take a look over the track listing though and you’ll see that Earth vs is filled with a unique mix of crunching riffs, huge choruses and bucket loads of wit which immediately make it stand out from most any other band’s music before or since. Greetings From Shitsville, TV Tan, Suckerpunch, Love U Til I Don’t, each has the power to inspire head banging and wry laughter in equal measure.

The band, led by South Shields born singer/songwriter/guitarist Ginger, flirted with chart success  plenty of times after the release of Earth vs (including several unlikely appearances on Top of the Pops) before a series of bust ups and drug problems would prolong the gaps between albums but no matter how close they got to the big time, or how many drugs they took, they never made a bloated  rock excess album. In fact they headed the other way with their third album, 1997’s misunderstood gem Endless Nameless, and covered an album full of angry references to the situation within the band with astounding levels of feedback and audio fuzz that was both commercial suicide and musical catharsis.

More important than any of the drama off-stage (and, admittedly on-stage too) though, was that the songs and the spirit of The Wildhearts always remained true to themselves, and nowhere is that  spirit, and that unique style, more evident than on Earth vs It’s simply a beast of an album, a swaggering, charming and dangerously unpredictable record that still sounds as fresh and vital now, twenty years on, as it did when it was released and an astonishing example of a band setting out their stall immediately with a masterclass in conviction and confidence which only really scratched the surface of what they could do.

So, Happy Birthday Earth vs, I’ll see you at the party. God bless The Wildhearts.

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