I wasn't going to pick up the new Wig Wam album, their fifth and first since reforming in 2019 after a five year break. After all, they're a glam band with a stupid name and overt pop sensibilities still best known for a decent showing in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005. Now, it was a rock performance, a year before the genre broke the 2006 event by handing a win to Lordi, but, as catchy as that song was, it was generic glam rock with a serious side of cheese. I wasn't leaping at the chance to review another Wig Wam album.
However, Chris Franklin played a track from Never Say Die on Raised on Rock last week and it sounded decent to me, so I bit the bullet and I'm happy I did as they've heavied up and ditched at least some of the cheese. The cover art may count as an artistic statement, as they look like hair metallers, who have finally put the pink boas and gallons of hairspray behind them and dirtied up with an approach based on tattoos and leather. Think Dr. Feelgood instead of Too Fast for Love.
Now, everything here is still catchy. Ten of the eleven songs on offer are laden with impressive hooks, the eleventh excepted only because it's an instrumental, the epic sounding Northbound. More than a few songs are singalongs, with a memorable chorus in Kilimanjaro that's much longer than the verses, "I never did coke, never did grass, but that didn't stop me from being a jackass," being just part of it.
That one has a country edge and it's a lot more contemporary than I expected from Wig Wam, but it's followed by Where Does It Hurt, a song that kicks in so emphatically that it almost finds a Rammstein level of crunch. Dirty Little Secret does that too, ironically as these two songs act as bookends around the power ballad, My Kaleidoscope Ark, suggesting that the band are enjoying getting heavy for once. However, both these songs still feature a pop mentality of turning the guitars down in the verses, at least for a while. Wig Wam are a lot heavier here, but I still wouldn't call them a metal band, even if vocalist Glam describes himself as a "heavy metal loverboy" in Dirty Little Secret.
The most obvious influences to me come in his vocals. He shifts between a few different styles here, as easily as you please. On the more straightforward songs, he channels some Vince Neil, which isn't too surprising, even if I always thought of the band as more inspired by Kiss than Mötley Crüe. I think the best songs are the ones that combine David Coverdale's swagger with a Ronnie James Dio's belt, not a pair of approaches I thought would work particularly well together.
Hypnotized has a Whitesnake vibe from the earliest vocal moan, but it evolves. This one and Shadows of Eternity are half Whitesnake, half Dio, and that works for me. The other song that's recognisable as other borrowed styles is the album closer, Silver Lining, which starts out like the Beatles and adds an Enuff Z'Enuff vibe as it builds, along with a decent solo that hints at Dave Gilmour. I hadn't expected that sort of combo here, and it underlines that checking the album out was a good decision.
Wig Wam are still too slick and too pop-minded for my tastes, but they do what they do far better on Never Say Die than anything I've heard from them in the past. It feels much grittier than I thought it would and it also feels like they mean it. The band's name is still stupid but this isn't a stupid album. I, for one, welcome this new heavier Wig Wam and hope the reunion sticks.