Album Review: The Wildhearts – 21st Century Love Songs

The disappointment of the Download Pilot sound issues followed by the triumph on Bloodstock’s main stage is pretty typical of The Wildhearts. Always filled with verve, vim, vigour and vavoom, when things click they’re one of the best bands around. Their last album, a comeback of sorts called Renaissance Men, was regarded as their best in ages and rightly so. Of course, the challenge is then to follow it up. Given that they had similar problems (a good one to have, mind) releasing something capable of partnering the magnificent Earth Vs all those years ago, we should hope that we’re in capable hands.

The album opens with its title track which is a foot-stomper if the band have ever released one. A great ensemble piece with Danny’s bassline clear through the guitars, drums and Ginger’s trademark Geordie vocals. A high-tempo chorus adds the perfect flourish to a great rock and roll number.

“Remember These Days” was the first single released and you can check it out below, including it’s simple singalong “woah-oah”s. It’s a bit of an 80s hark-back, and that’s no bad thing. While “Splitter” fires on all cylinders pace-wise, I found it a little bland otherwise. Mind, this is in comparison to the band’s other output so it’s still a decent song, it just didn’t grab me the way that I’m used to the Wildhearts song doing so, at least not until the final flurried guitar solo.

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“Institutional Submission” absolutely blasts out of the speakers sounding more like a death or slam metal number for its opening few seconds. Like “Splitter”, it’s a little hit and miss with the gentler sections actually being the parts I enjoyed the most – and I can see them working live. It’s quite an eclectic number and after several listens I’m still trying to get into it. “Sleepaway” is probably best known already for “that” video, which we’re not embedding below because YouTube just puts up a grey box anyway. It’s a return to form after the last two tracks, a churning song with that Wildhearts hook and a mixture of melody and punk.

An odd link from the end leads us into “You Do You” which should have any decent crowd pogoing. A proper belter designed to encourage fist pumping and headbanging, it’s The Wildhearts at their modern day best. “Sort Your Fucking Shit Out” has also had a single release, and it’s a great rallying cry whether you focus its message on yourself or others. Another cracking tune. “Directions” is OK, a little bit “by the numbers”, but a decent listen.

“A Physical Exorcism” is The Wildhearts once again pulling from their own rulebook, and it’s all the better for it. Cracking rock and roll overtones, blasts of madness, a chorus you can sing along to with ease and enough little noisy sections to get a pit going. It’s schizophrenic song, and I think this is perhaps deliberate. The album wraps with the slow and funky “My Head Wants Me Dead”, a bit of an odd choice for the closer. It’s a good song, but doesn’t exactly leave you on a high given its pace and tone.

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21st Century Love Songs is an oddball collection of songs, but it’s The Wildhearts so what do you expect? There are highs and lows, and it doesn’t take a huge dig to work out that to a large extent Ginger is writing from the heart (and fragile mind) through a lot of them. You can tell the lyrics are personal, which is where repeated listens really add a bit more to the album.

My main criticism is the production and I think this is a personal choice issue. I’m not a fan of the overly distorted vocals that the band have used on and off over time, and 21st Century uses them a lot. The wall of sound / white noise approach detracts from the quality of their playing and I think turning this down a couple of notches would have made things that bit more easy to get into. Having said that, the lyrical topics do lend themselves to a more abrasive sound… it’s just not one I’m a fan of.

There are some great songs on here, and a couple not so great. But I know others will disagree and to an extent that’s one of the album’s strengths. It’s not just “another Wildhearts album”, it’s a varied collection of tracks covering a myriad of their familiar sounds and techniques, as well as pushing the envelope in some directions. It’s not an easy listen like their older stuff was, but I have a feeling it’s not designed to be.

Rest assured I’ll be continuing to listen to it in the runup to their tour dates! Scroll down for the dates.

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  • 3 Fri Tramshed, Cardiff
  • 4 Sat SWX, Bristol
  • 5 Sun Phoenix, Exeter
  • 6 Mon Cheese & Grain, Frome
  • 8 Wed Academy 2, Manchester
  • 9 Thu Electric Ballroom, London
  • 10 Fri Waterfront, Norwich
  • 11 Sat Chalk, Brighton
  • 12 Sun Madding Crowd, Bournemouth
  • 15 Wed KKs Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
  • 16 Thu Guildhall, Gloucester
  • 17 Fri Boiler Shop, Newcastle
  • 18 Sat Stylus, Leeds
  • 20 Mon Mac Arts, Galashiels
  • 21 Tue Tolbooth, Stirling
  • 22 Wed The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
  • 24 Fri Foundry, Sheffield
  • 25 Sat Engine Rooms, Southampton


  • 1 Fri Great British Alternative Festival, Skegness
  • 2 Sat MK11, Milton Keynes
  • 15 Fri Roadmender, Northampton
  • 16 Sat Cornwall Rocks, Cornwall


  • 5 Fri MMH Radio 10 Year Birthday Bash, Birmingham
  • 11 Thu Hedworth Hall, South Shields
  • 12 Fri Monsterfest, Inverness
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September 10, 2021 10:34 AM

Nooooooo… You didn’t get Splitter. It’s one of THE stand out tracks. Thing about the Wildhearts is they’re so varied that everyone loves them from a different angle. This is the best album they’ve released since the days of Phuq and Fishing for More Luckies. Just great. Wow

Reply to  Mosh
September 10, 2021 2:32 PM

For me some songs on this album didn’t really hit me until after a few listens

Now I can’t stop listening to the album on repeat!