THEIR debut album was recently voted the fifth best of all time by readers of Classic Rock magazine and they count the likes of Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Courtney Love among their fans.

But despite scoring a top 10 album at the height of Britpop, rockers The Wildhearts never quite hit the big time like contemporaries Oasis or Manic Street Preachers.

In-band splits, record company rows and dangerous levels of rock ‘n’ roll overindulgence saw to that.

But now the band, who have 13 top 40 hits to their name, are back.

Frontman Ginger and guitar player CJ are about to embark on a series of acoustic dates, including a much-anticipated set at Bar Metro.

Ginger has just finished a tour of the UK and Japan with another of his bands - the intense and experimental Mutation.

But he says switching from Mutation’s brutal noise to acoustic guitars will be ‘a very welcome gear change’.

“If Mutation had been a lot of fun I would’ve had a harder time making the transition, but it ended up being quite stressful and I’m so in the right frame of mind for this,” he said

“It’s with someone I know, there will be no extra drama and I know the audience is going to sing their hearts out – it’s an early Christmas present for me.”

Ginger and CJ formed the first incarnation of the band in 1989 and the Geordie songwriter says the pair are now like an ‘old married couple’.

He said: “It’s the most familiar thing. Everything else we do is more - exciting is the wrong word - but a bit more of a thrill, a bit like having a bit on the side. I’m sure CJ would agree.

“I’ve been meaning to go through the songs we are going to do and I just can’t do it.”

And Ginger is particularly looking forward to taking to the road during the run up to festive period.

“With this audience we’ve got, it’s going to be so great, and the ironic thing being we are both going to make money, which is a big difference.

“Our crowd is really loud. We’re a loud band and they’re louder than us, so what they’re going to be like at an acoustic gig, I don’t know.

“It’s not going to be the calm after the storm, it’s going to be the earthquake after the storm. If anything it’s going to be more extreme, ironically, being an acoustic tour.”

The band has never been far from controversy – whether smashing up the offices of rock mag Kerrang or blowing their record company’s money on an X-rated video for their single ‘If Life is Like a Lovebank, I want an Overdraft’.

But Ginger, who has also released a huge back catalogue of music under his own name, says one thing has always set The Wildhearts apart from the pack.

“Our secret weapon was the songs, that’s the one thing we had over all the bands of our era and that translated straight to the live audience,” he said.

“The crowds sang the songs right back to us, and we didn’t know they were going to do that. You can’t beat a great live band.

He continued: “We’re a loud band on stage, our soundman is always battling to get us to turn down and get the vocals over the band.

“This is a chance to get the vocals to shine without any competition, that’s why it’s going to be such a success.

“Our audience probably doesn’t know a lot of our songs have vocal harmonies, they’re too busy singing along to Suckerpunch or something. I think it’s going to surprise and delight a lot of people.”

n The Wildhearts, Bar Meto, Bradshawgate, Bolton, Sunday, December 10. Tickets from info@BarMetro.Rocks or 07973 15450