The Wonder Stuff O2 Academy Liverpool 11th March 2016

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For thirty years Miles Hunt and his assorted gang of merry pranksters The Stuffies (aka The Wonder Stuff) have been traversing afar their eight legged groove machine wall of sound.
To celebrate this milestone (no pun intended) he’s taken them out on a special Anniversary tour, with a new album out (30 Goes Around The Sun) in the shops for good measure. What could possibly go wrong?

Arriving later than planned due to a Taxi Driver-related confusion of venue meant I only caught the last two songs of The Lottery Winners’ set, more’s the pity ‘cause it sounded mighty fine indeed. A young quartet from Salford, they specialise in harmonious indie breeze pop recalling mid-period Lemonheads, The Magic Numbers and The Rembrandts if their music wasn’t complete unmitigated dog shite. Catchy, jubilant and brimming with confidence, this frisky foursome are ones to keep an eye on.

Next up it’s The Icicle Works, another eighties outfit with an ever fluctuating line up. Based around the flamboyant and often controversial local hero Ian McNabb, The Icies captivate tonight with their spellbinding web of 60s West Coast Psychedelia, Highway 61 Electro Blues meltdown, starstruck pop majesty and socially conscious meditations on life, held together by McNabb’s haunting voice (one of the greatest of the era) and stinging, Robert Frippesque guitar work. Ably complemented by a backing band that includes Dodgy’s Mathew Priest on sticks duty, anthems such as ‘Evangeline’, ‘Whisper To A Scream and ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’ (which no amount of repeated plays by Steve bastard Wright will EVER kill) infect you with their exuberance and Colosseum sized tunefulness, with darker tracks like ‘Little Girl Lost’ sucking you into a different place altogether. McNabb’s infamous outspokenness is only really present in miniature rants on ‘music made by computers’ and the devastating effect many of Thatcher’s decisions had on the UK in general, other than that it’s the music that does the talking. And talk it does, gloriously so. Just remember to buy a t-shirt on the way out.

The Lights go out, the screen comes on. Thirty years of The Wonder Stuff. A miniature film comprising some of the highpoints of their career, then BANG! They’re onstage. Miles arrives looking rather dapper in a pristine white shirt, and reassures the crowd almost straight away “don’t worry, we won’t play Dizzy.”

Kicking off (rather appropriately) with the Middle Eastern flavoured ’30 Years In The Bathroom’, the fan favourites come thick and fast throughout. Always essentially a punk band despite the relentless, exhausting array of styles and genres projected back and forth throughout their back catalogue, The Wonder Stuff are masters of deception. The apparent jauntiness of proto-Britpop mega smash ‘The Size Of A Cow’, for example, is actually a cover for a dark tale of alcohol-fuelled depression, whilst the raucous Slade style Yob Popisms of ‘Give Give Give Me More More More’ and ‘It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby’ are both savage deconstructions of the ‘every man for himself’ Yuppie culture of the eighties, the beer soaked glam choruses would appear to suggest otherwise to the casual, unenlightened listener.

There’s plenty of good natured audience baiting, with Miles having a go at those who like to film or watch poor quality gig footage on Youtube (“Go out and buy the album you cheap cunt) and playfully berating the audience for mockingly booing the announcement of a new song. Hunt’s partner Erica Nockalls deserves a special mention for her outstanding violin work and icy cool stage persona, Pavlova stepping into a futuristic punk wilderness, Teutonic chic and bags of rock ‘n’ roll attitude. Hunt’s vocal delivery is breathtaking, showing no sign whatsoever of slowing down despite his advancing years; the attack-dog speed pop of ‘Radio Ass Kiss’ sounds more ferocious than ever, verging on a kind of Rap-Punk in its vocal relentlessness, whilst the giddy venom of debut single ‘Unbearable’ packs a particularly hard punch in its darkly amusing lyrical malevolence. More reflective pieces like ‘Cartoon Boyfriend’ and ‘Circlesquare’ entice with their hypnotic grooves and psychedelic flourishes.

Thirty years old yet sounding as fresh as an underage daisy, Miles Hunt and The Wonder Stuff have never sounded better. A triumph from start to finish, let’s hope there’s more of these shows to come for the next thirty years and beyond. Wonderful, erm, stuff.

Thanks to Graham Christensen for kindly granting me permission to use his photo.
Read 3071 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2016 11:17

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