Saturday saw a bunch of men and women in their mid 40’s fill the 02 Academy in Birmingham and relive something of their youth as TheWonder Stuff celebrated their 30th Anniversary. They had two support groups the main one being The Wedding Present, another indie group of the time. This 30th celebration has also seen the launch of a new album by The Wonder Stuff 30 Goes Around the Sun.
It was interesting listening to their early material alongside the new album. The material from Hup particularly shows the influence that sharing a flat with Clint Mansell of Pop Will Eat Itself (the band who encouraged you to sample it, loop it, f**k it and eat it) had on the early sound of The Wonder Stuff and there was plenty of that early material being played on Saturday night.
Yet The Wonder Stuff were always more of a pop band than PWEI and this was reflected in those hits which got the crowd of grown up indie kids jumping up and down like it was sometime around 1990 again. The whole set had people moving but the room literally exploded into one mass of bodies moving up and down during The Size of a Cow. From then on it was like everybody had lost quarter of a century. I was so glad I was still wearing DM’s, appreciating how good their souls were for that type of dancing.
Welcome to the Cheap Seats was a particularly moving number as it was dedicated to those who had been lost in the intervening years.
There was some material from the new album, which was introduced with characteristic pantomime banter by lead singer Miles Hunt who was very much on form during this birthday homecoming gig. As one witty guy standing nearby put it there seems a direct correlation between the length of Miles’ hair and the quality of the performance. He currently has amazing hair and this was reflected in the quality of the set.
Listening at home to the new CD which has the potential to be their first top forty album in over 20 years I was struck by how the sound remains distinctive but shows the maturity of being part of a middle aged generation. There is a lot of the reflectiveness one finds once you start to reach a certain point of your life in the lyrics here, particularly on tracks which bookend the album. It begins on Don’t You Ever which is a spiritual but not religious number. In the sleeve notes Miles explains he is an atheist but just sometimes he gets the feeling there might be someone there. Then it ends with 30 Goes Around the Sun which is a track where Hunt tells his younger self it’s all about the ride not the destination.The influence of the PWEI can still be found in Last Days of the Feast but with the fiddle playing of Erica Nockalls there is a touch of Levellers in their as well. This is no bad thing as these are both influences which The Wonder Stuff core audience spent their uni years dancing to as well. One of the stand out pure Wonder Stuff tracks is Misunderstanding Burton Heel which is apparently about the protagonist in a novel Miles intends to write.
This is not a stand out album but it is one which is highly listenable to and which has a comfortable feel to it. The lyrics are strong and the tunes are pleasant and it has the feel of meeting up with an old friend, of the same generation, for an evening of drinking and chatting, which is no bad thing. So do I recommend it? Definitely…..particularly if you are a 40 something who hasn’t outgrown your DM’s.