The Wonder Stuff
It was 1989, ’90 or ’91 when I first heard the Wonder Stuff song Circlesquare. Probably ’90, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, that song remains one of the high points of music at the beginning of the decade for me, and The Wonder Stuff are one of the great forgotten bands of the era. Under appreciated even in their own country (England) they nonetheless released 3 successive great little pop albums that would have sold more had they been released a few years later when Britpop was in full swing. Ringing guitars, a snotty front man and harmonies lifted straight off of Revolver. Remind you of anyone?
They were better than the Gallagher brothers, though. Way better. Way more fun. The songs off the debut, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, were energetic, soulful, unique and…fun. ‘It’s Yer Money’, ‘Give Give Give Me More More More’, ‘No For The 13th Time’ and ‘A Wish Away’ are all fantastic songs, and the rest of ‘em are as good as anything released by any band during that year (1988). Like The Cars debut, this album sounds like a greatest hits.
Next year’s HUP! Brought the band to a whole ‘nother level, musically and critically speaking. ‘Golden Green’ was the hit, ‘Radio Ass Kiss’ the biting rocker, and “Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘Piece OPf Sky’ and the jaunty ‘Can’t Shape Up’ returned the band to the pure pop pleasures of the first album. A smidgeon of dance culture was starting to creep in, and after this album was released the band unleashed ‘Circlesquare’, which was remixed to great effect. Had they continued on in this direction they could have rivaled the Happy Mondays, but they didn’t.
In 1991 they released what I would consider their strongest album in Never Loved Elvis. The dance grooves were out, and in came the fiddle, banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and accordion.. It kind of sounds like the Buzzcocks blended with the Waterboys, if that makes any sense to you. The boys even roped in Kirsty MacColl’ for a couple of numbers. They even had a smash US college radio hit with ‘The Size Of A Cow’, which oddly enough is one of the weaker songs. It’s a great, great album and unfortunately overshadowed by a slew of great records that came out that year (Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque, Nirvana’s Nevermind, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Screamadelica by Primal Scream, etc).
I don’t know why but they went downhill really fast after Never Loved Elvis. Apparantly they’re still a going concern in the UK, but one of their latest shows here, in Colorado of all places, was seen by 100 people. Damn shame. I was lucky enough to see them once (twice? Can’t remember) in Toronto and remember them being really excellent live.
If you get the chance, pick up those first 3 albums, though. Ok?