Record Review - 2 June 03 2004

Old-fashioned rock stardom bespeaks certain obligations, and Wildhearts singer/guitarist Ginger is a rock star right down to the surname-less moniker. Ginger’s led the decade-plus British quartet through the obligatory drug abuse/dissolution “Behind the Music” cycle — complete with mood swing-inspired lineup changes, inner band acrimony and ongoing label troubles responsible for the band’s 1997 disintegration after four albums.

The charismatic frontman addresses his outrageous antics on “Nexus Icon” off the Wildhearts’ comeback full-length, Must Be Destroyed. Such self-awareness and humor sounds fresh next to the States’ mordantly serious hard rock. More from the Slade than Motörhead school of British metal, the Wildhearts’ M.O. entails anthemic rockers overstuffed with hooks and poppy ballads bearing the imprint of Cheap Trick. Boasting the reunited “classic” lineup, Must Be Destroyed’s crisp production and tight, high drum sound on the numerous ballads recalls ’80s power pop, synthesizing Brit Invasion melodicism and crunchy power chords.

While those ballads and “Nexus Icon” front-load the album with good songs, the back half is more disappointing. If “So Into You” intriguingly blends power pop with Night Ranger-style ’80s metal, then “There’s Only One Hell” and “Top of the World” botch the recipe, tasting too much like Eddie Money or Loverboy, respectively. Not as chunky or dirty as last year’s EP, Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff, it’s a testament to Ginger’s melodic sensibilities and rock panache that he brings both off well.

The Wildhearts play the Masquerade Sat., June 5. 10 p.m. $8.