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THE WONDER STUFF - Suspended By Stars   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 21 February 2006
The Stuffies show that they can do exactly what they did in 1991, except now they can do it better ...



On the 19th March this year, The Wonder Stuff turn 20. Twenty years ago the world was a very different place. Television stopped at midnight, the Internet existed only in the movies, and the country was in the grip of a violent misrule by a warmad harridan intent on selling off everything left to line the pockets of their cronies.


Not much changes then. And here we are, two decades on, and The Wonder Stuff - revamped into a smarter, rockier beast than their chartbound incarnation of a decade ago - are still at it. In some respects, with a Wonder Stuff album you know what you’re going to get. And yet, you don’t.


It starts with a simple, single guitar tone, and then it goes everywhere. “Tricks Of My Trade” clearly sets the agenda. Almost, in some respects a Musical Year Zero, a restatement of intent : The Wonder Stuff clearly aren’t fucking around… “Those were different times, my mind a different place … I still have so much left to do.


The same biting roaring noise, the same infectious and caustic lyrics made out of love and hate, big stadium rock, and yet, initimate and intelligent. Actually, to call it stadium rock is utter bollocks. Stadium rock is shit. This is – possibly – the best album they’ve made so far.


Blooding the studio debut of a longstanding lineup, “Suspended By Stars” is timeless. An immaculate production results in a record that sounds like both a classic rock record, and something that ONLY could’ve been released now. The songwriting – once Miles petulantly threw out anthems like “Radio Ass Kiss” and “Who Wants To Be The Disco King?” like a West Country Johnny Rotten  - has matured.


Maturity is a frightening word. Not quite as frightening as immaturity, but not far off. Instead we get all the familiar old concerns, this time spat forth articulately and in the wrapping of an expansive, brilliant soundscape. I dread to think of The Wonder Stuff as classic rock, but this goes so far beyond the confines of the ‘indie’ ghetto that the musical shorthand of genres and labels are redundant.



By turns flippant and angry, “Suspended By Stars” also does sincere in a way that Bono could only hope for. “We Hold Each Other Up” is the type of song that, by rights, should immediately usurp TheKeaneBoys and TheSnowChiefs in the ‘meaningful’ stakes by virtue of the fact that it is both sincere, smart, and uncliched. Or boring.


The addition of new fiddle player Erica Nockalls expands the band : whilst the limitations of a rock four piece were hardly felt on the previous album, there’s no doubt that the new stuff just feels more diverse, wider. “We Hold Each Other Up” suddenly unfolds into something big and beautiful when her dulcit, modern fiddle tones grab hold of the song. And suddenly the song moves from a dedicated black & white to a colour panorama.


Elsewhere, The Stuffies show that they can do exactly what they did in 1991, except now they can do better :  The Popular Choice” is just one assasination of whatever the British call Culture these days, “Blah Blah La Di Dah” is equally successful at being brash, silly, honest and self-lacerating. (A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.)


BlahBlah” also has the honour of being possibly the best Wonder Stuff song of all time. I say possibly, because there’s a lot of competition. But it’s certainly everything every old Wonder Stuff song wanted to be.


Aside from a couple of potential misfires (more down to my personal tatse than any particular shortfall in quality or style), “Suspended By Stars” is a consistent and quality experience that shows the pale young indie boys who weren’t even born when they started : This Is How It’s Done. The pretenders to the throne should hand back the crown now. Because the young men who want to sound old are getting boring, and to be boring is the biggest crime there is.


And this is so much more than they could ever hope to achieve.




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