The Wonder Stuff – Escape From Rubbish Island

For the readers out there who only know The Wonder Stuff for the single “Size Of A Cow” and their wacky collaboration with Vic Reeves, “Dizzy”, let me educate you in a brief history of the band. During the best part of the eighties and early nineties, The Wonder Stuff has a string of hit singles and critically acclaimed albums that included their brilliant debut “The Eight Legged Groove Machine” and the more folk inspired “Never Loved Elvis”. Lead singer / guitarist Miles Hunt’s witty lyrics and forthright delivery led a rock fused band to unprecedented success with their brand of catchy melodies and anthemic originality. Tragedy struck when recently absent member the bass thing died of a heart attack. They carried on for a few more years until 1994 when they played their final concert (or so they thought) at the Phoenix Festival in 1994. Miles formed a new band Vent, which was fleetingly short lived. He carried on as a solo performer and in the band The Miles Hunt Club. Recently though The Wonder Stuff re-formed annually for the Christmas concerts at sold out venues throughout the country playing a crowd pleasing greatest hits set.

Now though is a time for celebration as the band release their first studio album in eleven years. The result is “Escape From Rubbish Island” which of course features Miles and his friend Malcolm Treece (both playing guitar with MT on backing vocals). Added to the line-up is LA Punk rockers Amen’s drummer Luke Johnson and former Radical Dance Faction bassist Mark McCarthy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that age may have mellowed the once angry young man Miles Hunt, but nothing could be further from the truth. He’s as fired u as ever with thankfully plenty to say for himself with vitriolic candour. Opening with title track, the squelchy synths lead us comfortably into the indie rock sound of yesteryear. Hunt still sounds petulant and youthful, his sarcastic streak reaching breaking point as he bellows “Yeah I may be a rat, but I can live with that”. Perhaps not as immediate as their earlier material it’s still a mighty impressive track. Much more laid back and chilled is “Another Comic Tragedy”. The vocal is strong and more restrained on this commercial, radio friendly song with the flute featuring heavily. Recalling the far out psychedelic appeal of the Doors is “Head Count”, which is very bass heavy. In the background, low in the mix is the sound of a children’s playground. This is moody stuff indeed with sinister sounding guitars and the brooding organ playing of Bill Hunt adding so much. “One Step At A Time” is a mid-tempo track with occasional changes in pace and the lyric “I didn’t come to bury hatchets and neither will I dig them up”.

“Escape From Rubbish Island” is a good solid comeback album. It may not hold too many surprised but when you sound this good why mess with a winning formula.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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