The Wonder Stuff's relatively brief stay in the upper echelons of the singles charts from '89-'94spanned my years of intensive child care and not coincidental career development. I was aware of them at the time that hits like "Size of a Cow", "Don't Let Me Down Gently" and "Welcome to the Cheap Seats" were inspiring the skater youth of Bromsgrove and Worthing, and liked what I heard a lot, but that was as far as it went. Having just missed Miles Hunt solo at Wickerman Festival a couple of years back, that was about as close as I thought I would get to the Wonder Stuff, but lo and behold the reformed band have produced a very very good album!
Opening "Intro", clocking in at 1m7s introduces a vaguely Eastern Mediterranean 12-string and fiddle, before we crash into a much more orthodox slab of anthemic folk-rock in "Don't You Ever", Erica Knockles' violin again to the fore. "In Clover" again features an effective hook from Knockles over acoustic and electric guitars from Hunt and Dan Donnelly, rather like a more cuddly version of New Model Army (not a bad thing at all!), and a scathing lyric about transient stardom. If "For the Broken Hearted" and "Good Deeds and Highs" are perhaps less obviously appealing, "The Affirmation" again crashes in with swagger and echoes of festival stages across an eager continent, and "Last Days of the Feast" maintains that level of energy. "The Kids from the Green" perhaps relies overly on wry nostalgia, with uncharacteristically Euro-poppy synth lines and an opening lyric eulogising "Days of sunshine and lemonade", but "Weakened" restores the balance with a wicked chord sequence, punctuated by savage fiddle and Cry-Baby guitar so redolent of their heyday.
"Misunderstanding Burton Heel", a title almost worthy of Half Man Half Biscuit is followed by the closing title track, a reference to the band's longevity, with Hunt (sadly by now the only original member of the eight-legged groove machine which originated from Stourbridge in the mid-80s, two of that four-man line-up having passed away) proclaiming no regrets "'cause I'm all out of tears and rage".
Ten cracking tracks, one snippet, and one relative blip - not bad for a band now entering their fourth decade! I may get to see them live yet!
|Various Artists: Hard Day's Night Treatment||The Old Fashioned: Strawberry Leaves|
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