The genius of having your album funded by your own fans directly before you’ve even made it is that while you are making it, you know exactly who you’re making it for. Not for record company execs who have given you money to make it and want to have their say, but for the people who care enough about what you do to pay you to do it. Disc Two of Ginger’s 555%, funded by his fans through PledgeMusic, shows exactly what that kind of music can sound like.
Disc One (reviewed here last week) was good enough on its own merits to be an album, and Ginger’s warnings after the positive reaction to those ten tracks was that this week’s disc might be more divisive because it was going to be more experimental. The reaction on Twitter at the ‘launch party’ suggests that he was wrong to doubt both the open-mindedness of his Pledgers, but even more so, the quality of his own material. Because while Disc Two takes a lot more risks than Disc One, those risks make it even better than what was already a high standard.
From the opening seconds of Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow, you can see why he was issuing those warnings on Twitter, because it’s instantly unrecognisable as anything close to The Wildhearts, with a P-Funk throbbing bassline possibly making a few worry about how far off-piste he was going to stray. His whole solo career so far has been about pushing the experimental side of his main band beyond the limits they could explore, and it’s been all the more interesting for that, but he rarely forgets to do what he does best, and this disc’s opener soon reassures that he knows what he’s doing.
It may have that funky opening, but the crunching guitars and soaring chorus are pure Ginger, just with a twist to keep it all sounding fresh. After all, three discs of regulation Wildhearts material might get a little old even for the die-hards. For me, Westward Ho! (A New Reputation) is even better, with traces of one of Ginger’s favourite bands, The Korgis, in the weird-pop lyrics and melodies, making it one of my favourite songs from the project so far.Do the Lonely Suffer More, or Less, or Just the Same at the Point of Death? has got an awesome title that Fiona Apple would be proud of, and harmonies and structure at the end that Brian Wilson would have been happy to claim as his own in the mid-to-late 60s.
One of the things that becomes most obvious on this disc, even more so than the first, is the importance of the presence of Willie Dowling on production duties, because tracks like The Other Side, Lover It Will All Work Out and Illuminating Times all bear the hallmarks of his insane (and insanely underrated) knack for perfect pop melodies. All three of those are amongst Ginger’s best sweet songs and you can definitely hear something of the Sugarplum Fairies in moments of them, making you wish Dowling had enjoyed better success with his own bands.
One slightly odd moment comes with Strange New Year, which starts off almost exactly like What Deaner Was Talking About by Ween, another of Ginger’s favourite bands (mentioned of course in Urge) and you have to assume it’s a deliberate homage rather than an unconscious theft, but it only occurs occasionally in the song anyway and it’s another belter once you get past that similarity. Like Disc One, it ends very well with a build-up in those wonderful rifftastic sections of songs that we all love from Ginger, not least in Return Of The Northern Cardinal, which songs like a prog song in title and structure.
So, two discs down, two very enjoyable treats on a Friday evening for the fans and seemingly great feedback, even on ‘the difficult second disc’. It seems like Ginger’s PledgeMusic album has been a roaring success, both commercially (up to 570% on the target now) and artistically. Even more than the first disc, this sounds like he went into 555% with the confidence of the backing he got from us, and determined to reward our faith with the best music he’s ever done. So far, that’s exactly what he’s delivered. Roll on Disc Three.
When one of your favourite bands announce their new album is coming out soon, there’s that wonderful flutter of excitement in your stomach. But sometimes they follow that up with those dreaded words ‘covers album’ and the fluttering butterflies plummet to the ground. Can Underwater Sunshine by Counting Crows prove that there can be a point to an album of other people’s songs?