With their 1993 debut, Earth vs. the Wildhearts, this English crew became big-selling, hotel-trashing bad boys, getting kicked off tours, breaking up and getting back together, and generally being the kind of paparazzi targets the English press salivates over as the rest of the world yawns. While sustaining that following in the U.K., they've only recently released their first Stateside CD since their debut, Riff After Riff (Gearhead). And here's where things get sketchy.
Packed with big fun songs, hard-rocking choruses skipping right next to a chainsaw metal chug, Riff is a swell collection. But last November, during the week it came out, another Wildhearts import, Must Be Destroyed, got a glowing review in Spin. The band's website barely mentioned Riff. And Gearhead's site masks the fact that Riff is a sort of B-side/best-of slab. A messy legal argument ensued (just as Gearhead was wrapping up its Hives contractual legal woes). Now that old chums the Darkness were getting big, the Wildhearts thought they needed a bigger label than Gearhead. And suddenly Must Be Destroyed was released over here on the Sanctuary label. The Wildhearts' songs were just as catchy as the Darkness's, though that cheeky band possesses shtick -- beyond the usual leather pants and empty Jack-Daniel's-bottle look -- that helps it cross over into the current branding-loving public. It's all yet another lap in the increasingly annoying carrot-dangle jackass gallop that is the music industry.