It’s hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago this month that The Wonder Stuff formed. From a little area of the West Midlands called Stourbridge, they were at the vanguard of a movement that included Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (both of whom have recently reformed incidentally) and produced a string of classic indie singles.
It all turned sour after the Construction For The Modern Idiot album and lead singer Miles Hunt went into VJing and a string of low-key solo projects. Then, in 2004, came the news that Hunt and Stuffies guitarist Malc Treece were back together as The Wonder Stuff. sending an entire generation into blissful nostalgia.
Last year’s Escape From Rubbish Island album had it’s moments, but the recently released Suspended By Stars feels like the first ‘proper’ Stuffies album for ages. Tonight’s gig at Leeds Cockpit should put to rest any old complaints that the new look Wonder Stuff are just a Miles Hunt solo venture. They look like a proper band again, with tattooed bassist Mark McCarthy looking especially like Hunt’s partner in crime.
The venues may have been downsized from the glory days, but The Wonder Stuff still have as much energy as ever. They rattled through a set list tonight of over 20 songs and were on stage for over two hours. The set list span all eras from the opening Tricks Of The Trade, from the new album, right through to the blistering encore consisting entirely of Eight Legged Groove Machine material.
Hunt remains a superb showman, grinning madly throughout the set and bantering with the audience (revelations included the fact that he’s growing his hair again and still has the famous tartan suit which he’s planning on E-baying!). He’s still got the reputation of being moody and difficult, but tonight he was the very picture of happiness, reminiscing about times gone by and launching his usual greeting at the start of the gig of “How the fuck are yer?”
Musically, the band are as tight as ever, with violinist Erica Nockells giving an extra dimension to many of the songs. Her contribution to the wonderful Donation was particularly good, even if the slightly dodgy acoustics of the Cockpit did render Miles’ tricks with the megaphone during the song slightly redundant.
For those who caught the Stuffies live last year, there were a few pleasant surprises of new additions to the setlist. The old live favourite Who Wants To Be The Disco King was dusted off early, but the highlight was the appearance of Construction For The Modern Idiot’s best song, A Great Drinker (introduced by Miles with the words “I feel a bit of a fraud singing this now that I’m as sober as a judge”).
A poignant Piece Of Sky was dedicated to Joe Strummer, Kirsty MacColl, John Peel, The Ramones and of course the band’s original bass player Bob “The Bass Thing” Jones, but the best was saved until the final encore. With barely a pause for breath, the band crashed into Red Berry Joy Town, which segued perfectly into the classic Give Give Give Me More More More before finally finishing off with Poison – a performance that a band half their age would struggle to live up to.
They may forever be known to some misguided folk as “that band who sang Dizzy”, but twenty years on The Wonder Stuff are still showing why some people still hold them in such high regard.