LIVE: The Wonder Stuff (Holmfirth Picturedrome, 22/7/11)
So it was a choice of two things for me this weekend just gone. Choice number one – go to Victoria Park, just a couple of miles from where I live, to see Slash, Michael Monroe and the Black Spiders among others for the High Voltage festival on a discount ticket. Choice number two – go to a small mill town somewhere near Huddersfield to see the Wonder Stuff. Simple decision you may think.
And so it is that Friday night sees me negotiating the twisting West Yorkshire Pennine roads and wondering “…so where is Holmfirth anyway?”
Okay, decision explaining time – the Wonder Stuff were a band I absolutely loved growing up and the opportunity to see them was not one I was gonna miss out on. And putting them in these here webpages isn’t quite as much of a stretch as you’d think – there’s plenty of good rock bands in recent years who, knowingly or otherwise, definitely owe a debt in their sound to the Stuffies – Drugdealer Cheerleader, the Glitterati, even the Urban Voodoo Machine to an extent.
Thing is, it has to be said that since they reformed about a decade ago, the new look Wonder Stuff’s output has been a bit patchy both in terms of albums and when I’ve seen them live so I’ll admit it’s more hope than expectation that I’m travelling with tonight. As it happens, tonight’s show more than surpasses my hopes – I’m not sure whether I’ve inadvertently stepped in a time machine back to 1991 or whether Miles Hunt growing back his hair has had a Samson-like effect on the band’s performance but as they rip in tonight with “Red Berry Joy Town” and “On The Ropes”, the group look to be having an absolute ball up onstage and the crowd duly responds by going absolutely ape. Good times.
The thing is that the Wonder Stuff’s brand of pop-punk has matured surprisingly well over the years – sounding like the missing link between Slade’s sheer power and the Jam’s spikiness, it’s a distinctively British sound, much more original and honest than any number of Motley Clones clogging up the capital’s rock venues that you’d care to mention. At it’s most cheerfully vitriolic (“Radio Ass Kiss”, “Don’t Let Me Down Gently”), it’s capable of whipping the crowd in this surprisingly large venue (imagine if they’d randomly dropped an O2 Academy with more reasonable bar prices in the middle of the Pennines) into an absolute frenzy while the more reflective likes of “Circlesquare” and “Sing The Absurd” do their job of slowing the tempo down without the audience losing interest. And there’s no denying that watching “Mission Drive” explode from its quiet understated intro into full on chaos is still a great thing to witness even all this time later.
The hits you’d expect are all trotted out (“Size Of A Cow”, “Caught In My Shadow”, “Welcome To The Cheap Seats”) and all set the crowd off nicely before the set ends with “Ooh She Said”, “Poison” and a cover of X-Ray Spex’s punk classic “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo” as a tribute to the late Poly Styrene. Then they’re off with the promise that they’ll be back soon and for the crowd to join them in the late pub next door to the venue and we’re out in the cool mountain air wondering where the evening’s gone so fast.
So yeah, that’s what I missed High Voltage for. And y’know what? I think it might just be up in the running for gig of the year so far. The Wonder Stuff will be back in London come December for the “Never Loved Elvis” 20th anniversary show. I’ll be there. I suggest you should be too.