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  • Melanie Henderson

Hardcore catharsis: C.J. Wildheart's take on 2020

With Mariah Carey topping the charts twenty-six years after her festive karaoke classic was released, and everyone and their uncle releasing Christmas cheer-up tunes, someone had to provide the antidote – something that really expressed all the pent-up angst of 2020 and proposed something more radical than just forgetting it all and ‘getting back to normal.’ Well, C.J. Wildheart has done just that – and then some.

In the first part of lockdown, as some of us lounged about dejectedly in our egg-stained pyjamas hoping for a sense of purpose to come along and hit us on the head, the Wildhearts’ guitarist, while dealing with isolation and frustration of his own, somehow managed to lay down the most sustained and violent sensory assault you’ll have heard this year. Siege is a raging bull of a proposition that bolts out of the traps like a thing possessed and shows no remorse. Not even a smidgeon. As an audio-purge it’s equivalent to just opening the door and having a bloody good scream. And, by God, does it feel fantastic.

Given that C.J’s vocal harmonies add so much to those infectious Wildhearts choruses, and that he contributed the highly melodic Little Flower to their 2019 album Renaissance Men, it might come as something of a surprise to find him with blood pressure so spectacularly off the scale. But, from his early days in Tattooed Love Boys to his Nineties projects Honeycrack and The Jellys, he’s never been averse to doing things differently. This might be his most brutal outing to date but it’s also brutally honest – the eight tracks here are more than just hardcore catharsis; they’re molten, frenzied chronicles of the year humanity pretty much disappeared up its own backside.

From panic-buying to the burning planet to posturing politicians and non-stop lies, it’s all here.

Peking Duck gives us mere seconds of threatening chug before plunging us, as if from a very great height, into a breakneck punk rollercoaster that rails about the disasters we’ve just become used to. State of Us – deservedly a Classic Rock track of the week – is a call to arms that ramps the punchy bass torque up to max, further setting an agenda that combines trademark C.J. catchiness with ruthless doses of rhythm and discord. The Ones You Do Not See, possibly one of the strongest tracks, captures emotional emptiness with a killer hook before a hot-headed U-turn that sees it career off at such a rate of knots you can practically smell rubber.

And the G-forces just get bigger.

CJ’s vocals, in keeping with the prevailing mood, are throat-grazingly intense. These are things he wants to shout about, and shout he does, nowhere more so than on Iscariot (‘Jooo-das! Jooo-das! What the f*** is wrong with you?’). At times, the whole thing is like standing in the way of rifle fire.

TP is a short-lived ode to a toilet paper tussle that hammers home 2020’s ridiculousness, but it’s incendiary finale Shit Brick that really calls it for what it is, referencing the death of George Floyd, and lyrically nailing the boiling fury that comes from being trapped alone with wall-to-wall media in the midst of escalating chaos.

All of this in under half an hour.

Good fun rockin’ around the Christmas tree it definitely ain’t. You won’t get a sentimental feeling. Nor will you hear voices singing let’s be jolly. But there are times when we need the stuffing knocked right out of us and, really, if you jumped into a Scottish loch naked in mid-December you couldn’t get much more of a wake-up call than Siege.

As for sitting around under the mistletoe waiting for dreams to come true…best leave that to Mariah.

Get Siege here

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