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Chart Chat Album Review : ‘Oh No It’s…The Wonder Stuff – The Wonder Stuff’ (25.03.13)

Album Review : Oh No It’s The Wonder Stuff – The Wonder Stuff (Monday 25th March)
Ok let’s start with a brief history lesson.  The Wonder Stuff formed back in 1986, and actually celebrated their twenty seventh birthday this week (though they were inactive between their 1994 split and 2000 reformation).  Anyone who caught the band at their Sleigh The UK gigs in December will know that they are very much still alive and kicking though only singer Miles Hunt remains from the original four piece line up.  Sadly fellow original members Rob ‘The Bass Thing’ Jones and Martin Gilks are no longer with us while guitarist Malcolm Treece departed in December 2011.  That said the current line up hold their own, with violinist Erica Nockalls providing a colourful stage presence alongside Stevie Wyatt, Fuzz Townshend and Mark McCarthy.
This album was released as a limited edition through the bands website back in December, but gets a full release this week and also includes the tracks recorded during the ‘From The Midlands With Love’ sessions which saw the band put their own spin on classic tracks recorded by artists from the Midlands. But more about that later in this review…
The album kicks off with ‘Clear Through The Years’ which is an uptempo stomper and is closely followed by the lead single ‘Oh No’ which now comes accompanied by a video directed by comedian and superfan Greg Davies.  If you haven’t seen it yet make sure you check it out on YouTube!
Miles has noted the popular use of ‘Size Of A Cow’ on certain dinner party based programmes and has kindly written the third track on offer here ‘Friendly Company’ as a possible replacement!  Lyrically I can see just how it would fit in, while Nockall’s violin really stands out here. ‘Steady As You Go’ keeps things mid tempo and the track deals with Miles believing that his own aging is one of his own greatest achievements. ‘From The Midlands With Love’ pays tribute to the many great songwriters from the area who inspired the covers which we will review later in this piece while Miles draws his lyrical inspiration on ‘Right Side Of The Turf’ from an eighty four year old pensioner from his local pub called George!  The track itself conjurs memories of The Stuffies early 90’s output and once again Nockall’s distinctive violin gives the track an extra edge.
‘Hard Truths (Stay A While)’ deals with the all too familiar subject of broken down relationships. “While flattery might serve us well / our egos may just burn in hell / but count me in, if only for the ride” sings Hunt in full lyrical flow.  Next up comes ‘Be Thy Name’, the only other track (alongside ‘Oh No’) to be performed at the bands Shepherds Bush Empire gig that I attended, and hazy memories of December 2012 come flooding back.  It’s a great track with the ageing process again coming under the spotlight as Miles opens with “I swear that this was easier when I was in my youth / I was on the blocks / ignored the clocks”.  It would be a classic single, although I suspect the days of expecting Radio 1 airplay are now gone.  That is a reflection on the times, rather than the quality of material on offer here as this would stand alongside any of the Stuffies classic tracks.
For me ‘Yer Man’s Alright’ is the weakest track here, both lyrically and musically.  It’s not one I would skip necessarily, but standing next to so many other better songs it could have been left off. It proves to be just a blip as ‘Arms Wide Open’ picks up the tempo again and is a classic fist in the air Wonder Stuff singalong.  ‘Inner Voices’ brings the album to an end with Hunt citing influences from Damien Dempsey.  It’s a fine track to close with, and completes the first disc of original material.
The “From The Midlands With Love” cover version disc offers a real array of classic songs updated by the band.  The project started out as a series of double a sides released last year but recording sessions continued and in the end there was enough material for a full CD. From Slade’s ‘Far Far Away’ to ‘Blackberry Way’ by The Move, each remains true to the original while equally having the band’s distinctive sound stamped on it. My favourite is probably ‘There There My Dear’ and that probably comes from my love for Kevin Rowland and Dexys, though it was a joy to hear them perform Duran Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’ at Shepherds Bush.  
This is an album very much about the present, and is not about cashing in on former glories. They still have the material to keep the fans happy, even if the music industry in 2013 may sometimes choose to overlook them.  They are back on the road in April and will be conducting another Sleigh The UK tour this December.  If you can make sure you catch them live, you won’t be disappointed.
Marks awarded : 9

23 March, 2013 - Posted by | ChartChat

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