Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Wonder Stuff

This is odd, for so many reasons. It's odd that 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine' is 20 years old. It's odd that The Wonder Stuff are using this as the premise for a tour. It's odd that they play the album all the way through, in order. Not only did they never do that when it was released, it's not an album which easily lends itself to such a runthrough. It means we get three of the biggest numbers - 'Red Berry Joy Town', 'No For The 13th Time' and 'It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby' - straight off, but then the pace slows and quickens with near reckless abandon. 'A Wish Away' stands alone in a sea of middle ranking album tracks and it is only at the end, when the band crash into 'Unbearable' and 'Poison' that the old fire and aggression reappear.

Some things have obviously changed during the preceding two decades. Miles Hunt is far from the arrogant idiot he was back in those days - indeed, he frequently makes knowing-but-self-deprecating remarks about his past behaviour. Malc Treece still dances like your dad, but he now looks like him, too. But the biggest difference is, of course, that two of the original band are no longer with us. It is a tribute to the musicianship of Andres Karu and Mark McCarthy that they are able to replicate so faithfully the sound of Martin Gilks and Bob 'Bass Thing' Jones. Gilks may have been voted 'Best drummer of all time' (or something similarly trite) by 6Music listeners just after his death, but it is no empty award, the man could really play. At the same time, it is only on occasions like this, when most of his work is being showcased, that you realise what a fine, technical bass player Jones was.

The second half of the set consists of a few more numbers from 1988 - mostly b-sides such as 'Goodbye Fatman' and 'Astley in the Noose', but including 'Who Wants to be the Disco King' - and a selection of choice cuts from the band's later career. If anything, this emphasises how firmly this set was directed at the true fan, as the band eschew popular favourites such as 'Welcome to the Cheap Seats' and go instead for classic album tracks such as 'Cartoon Boyfriend' and 'Caught In My Shadow'. Indeed, Hunt shows some of his old contrariness in deriding the person at an earlier show who asked him not to play 'On the Ropes' - an odd request anyway, as it is one of their finest and most mature numbers.

For the lucky few, there's also a four track aftershow, featuring the three tracks from the band's 'A Wonderful Day' debut, plus the inevitable 'Size of a Cow'. In all, the air is one of celebration, but it is far from a typical Wonder Stuff show.


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