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By Kris | June 1, 2000
Silver Ginger 5 – Black Leather Mojo · Record review by Darren Stockford
There’s a scene in the 1988 movie John Lennon: Imagine in which a reporter from the New York Times takes to task the greatest songwriter of his generation for trying to do something more with his life than just twist and shout.
“I’m someone who used to admire you very much when you were in The Beatles,” she says, insinuating that was all he was worth.
“Well,” says Lennon, not missing a beat, “I’m sorry if you liked the old moptops, dear, and you thought I was very satirical and liked A Hard Day’s Night, but I’ve grown up and you obviously haven’t.”
For Ginger, ex of The Wildhearts, lest we forget, there have probably been more than a few moments like this over the past few years, moments when he’s felt like telling some of his more vocal detractors to get a life. Whichever way he turns, there’s always someone blocking his exit with a big sign reading: “When are The Wildhearts getting back together?”. To his credit, he hasn’t flipped out (a few well-aimed retorts don’t count). Instead, he’s calmly but forcefully walked his own path, penning some songs for his friends Backyard Babies, knocking several shades of shite out of greasy rock ‘n’ roll with Super$hit 666, and hooking up with Alex Kane, the original American psycho, for some ‘White Album’-style fun with Clam Abuse. For just under two years’ work, it’s not bad going.
And then, there’s SilverGinger 5.
Black Leather Mojo signals Ginger’s “proper” rebirth. This ain’t no side project, this is the real deal, the record that’s going to kick open doors he never even knew existed. At least that’s the plan. The music industry’s a funny old thing, so I’ve no idea where this album’s actually going to take him, but at the very least it’s going to knock the rock scene for six. I’m confident of that because Black Leather Mojo demonstrates perfectly how bland and unemotional 95 per cent of rock music actually is.
Believe it or not, there was a time when commercial rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t a filthy phrase but a reason to be genuinely excited. Think AC/DC. Think Cheap Trick. Think Mott The Hoople, Slade, the Raspberries. Think big guitars with even bigger tunes. It’s this period in musical history – when rock and pop happily shared the same bed and no one even noticed because it was so damned natural – from which BLM seems to take a lot of its inspiration. Sure, there are glimpses of other influences – Anyway But Maybe and I Wanna Be New mix their Trickisms with some catchy-as-hell, classic Metallica-style riffing – but the overall effect is a record that could quite happily be performed on Top Of The Pops (circa 1974) in its entirety. And it’d probably manage to get those guys in the tank tops dancing real good too.
You wanna party? Try on Girls Are Better Than Boys for size. Echoing the feelgood stomp of The Yo-Yo’s’ You Got Me Out Of My Mind, this raunchy, Slade-style rocker features some cutely observant lyrics. Basically a list of reasons why girls outrank boys (“they give you sleepless nights and their breath smells good in the morning / And they look better than you when they dress in your favourite gear”), it’s the fun rock ‘n’ roll side of John Lennon’s Woman (it’s true – I bet even Yoko “don’t piss on the seat of the toilet”). And it’d make a cracking first single.
Heck, there are potential singles galore here. From the riffmongous Divine Imperfection, with its AC/DC meets Exile era Stones vibe (hard rockin’ riffs, parpin’ horns and gospel singers, plus a scorchin’ lead geetar break, the likes of which I’ve not heard in many a long year), to (Whatever Happened To) Rock ‘N’ Roll Girls, with its camp, showy opening and Cheap Trick-like descending melody, or even the southern fried Inside Out (country radio here we come?), there are songs here for everyone. And all of ’em produced to divine (im)perfection.
Sound-wise, BLM delivers in buckets. In a word? Try ‘widescreen’. If this was a movie, it’d be 2001: A Space Odyssey (minus the men in monkey suits, natch). It’s a cathedral of sound, both dense and vast – at times there’s so much going on in the arrangements you have to wonder if Phil Spector didn’t sneak into the studio while producer Tim Smith was in the loo and have a bit of a twiddle. It’s also as warm as a pair of knitted underpants.
One of the joys of Ginger’s music, for me, is its ability to press all the right emotional buttons. I’ve always thought that his comments about Stop Thinking being a “comedy record” belittled the emotional core of that album. The Chicken Song is a comedy record. There’s Always Someone More Fucked Up Than You is five weeks’ worth of therapy, and I appreciate it.
Thankfully, BLM doesn’t come equipped with its own get-out clause. And it feels all the better for it. The highs are higher than anything Ginger’s ever recorded before. He’s always had a knack for knowing exactly when to change key, when to let rip with another chorus, when to take the song in another direction. There’s never any wastage, and everything is maximum impact.
You can almost see the emotion being wrung out of these songs as they’re performed. As the guitar solo kicks in on Church Of The Broken Hearted, I can feel my stomach rise up toward my chest. It’s like riding the best damned rollercoaster in the world. Rock ‘N’ Roll Girls has a key change towards the end that gives me a head rush so joyous I have difficulty staying upright. And the lyrical rawness of The Monkey Zoo touches places only Ian Hunter’s Michael Picasso has managed to touch in recent years. Constructed around three verses, beginning “sex”, “death” and “life”, this lush, powerfully arranged ballad aches with 35 years of human experience. It hurts. Like life, it’s meant to.
Aw, the fact is, I could enthuse about this album ’til the sky falls in, but none of it means anything. As Nick Kent never said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Words are completely meaningless because you can never accurately describe what an orgasm feels like. The best way to find out is to have yourself some sex. (Ooh, I love it when I talk dirty.)
Back in black. With his mojo working. The past was great but the future’s gonna be even greater.
Trust me. It’s better with leather.