Unless you’re European, you most likely have never heard of a Punk/Metal band called the Wildhearts. They were quite famous in their home country of England, and most of Europe and Japan during the 90s, with heavy punk songs such as “Sick of Drugs”, “Suckerpunch”, “TV Fan”, “Caffeine Bomb”, and more recently, “Vanilla Radio” and “The New Flesh.”
The band has broken up and gotten back together numerous times, with at least as many lineup changes. But one thing remains constant: Ginger, the dreadlock-ed, ginger (oh, I see where the nickname comes from!) frontman of the band. Through immeasurable drug-use he has survived with an incredible catalogue of music. Every member of the band have had killer side projects, but none rock quite as hard as Silver Ginger 5, a project Ginger formed in 1999, originally as a solo outing.
In 2000, they released their first (and, to date, only) album, Black Leather Mojo. What differentiates this album from Gingers other projects (he has at least six, not to mention the numerous other albums he’s been a guest on) is how much of the musical influence is taken from early 70s glam rock. While his solo project, Ginger, often sounds Police-influenced, Silver Ginger 5 give a majority of their props to the likes of Sweet, Gary Glitter and T. Rex. The best part is, because Ginger comes from a punk/hard rock music background, this album sounds anything but dated.
The album kicks in with the heroic intro of “Sonic Shake” (the albums single), which brings images of crowds-of-thousands jumping up and down in a sweaty frenzy to the song’s bouncy beat. The best part is the choir of cheerleaders cheer/shouting “Shake!” throughout the song.
The album is chock full’o’surprises. From the Alice Cooper-esque horn sections — (“Divine Imperfection” and “(Whatever Happened To) Rock’n’Roll Girls” — to its candy-pop grooves (“Brain Sugar”) this album has a bit of something for everyone. “Girls Are Better Than Boys” sounds like it could have been a hit in 1972, while “The Monkey Zoo” is teeming with Beatles harmonies and sweeping guitar/synth lines. It is truly the album's “epic track” (which is understandable due to it’s six minute run time).
The real surprise on the album, though, comes in the form of “Too Many Hippies (In the Garden of Love),” which stands out like an a well-fed runway model. It is by far the heaviest number on the album, and sounds more like a Rob Zombie b-side than anything else. The song blazes with ferocity from start to finish (including a wailing background vocal line in the second verse and one of the most boot-stomping breakdowns in recent memory).
The album falls short with the pop/rock ballad “Inside Out,” which unfortunately has the tendency to draw too much from 21st century radio rock. But fret ye not! The album resumes its former glory on the next track with “I Wanna Be New.” It screams by in just over two minutes, tackling the raw energy of Stooges-era Iggy Pop (and succeeding admirably) and evolving it into a punk song for the new millennium.
The next ballad, “Church of the Broken Hearted” sounds like a lost Aerosmith number from the mid-90s (it would have fit right alongside “Crazy” as if they were musical Siamese twins). Slow and soulful, it is a true modern power ballad. The killer album closer is “Take it All Why Don't'cha.” After a twenty-second fade in, the song bursts into its powerful, face-melting hard rock riff (accented only by its distorted guitar squeak). As if it hadn’t already gotten intense enough, it’s not long before a rock 'n' roll gospel choir makes itself known (as it had previously done on “Divine Imperfection”) and smoothly evolves into the greatest scream-along chorus on the entire album.
This is a Rock 'n' Roll record through and through. It's lyrics tend to regard such aspects as Abusive Relationships (that you just can't seem to drag yourself away from), Sex, Drugs, Rock'n'Roll, Sex… and oh, did i mention Sex? But who cares what the lyrics are about! This album will get you out of your seat and rocking around your bedroom like you're fifteen again. And you'll learn the lyrics anyways, just so you can sing along with them (or shout, depending… ).
With only one mishap on the whole damn record, and very little in the way of boring moments, Black Leather Mojo is truly a formidable offering, making it one of Ginger’s most solid releases to date. Unfortunately, it went without much notice upon its release. But then again, so did Aerosmith’s first record, and who can’t sing the chorus to “Dream On” now?