Wednesday, 13 January 2010

647 THE WONDER STUFF, Dharma Drive, Undercut, Bristol Academy, Monday 11 October 2004

Back again to the Academy for the third gig in 5 days, this time an intriguing one. The Wonder Stuff - whom we thought had settled on Christmas "Gangshow" reunion gigs only - have put out a new album and are touring with a new line-up, mainman Miles Hunt having allegedly alienated a couple of original members in the process! Scratching the surface of this news revealed that new CD "Escape From Rubbish Island" is a Miles solo affair in all but name, and of the original Stuffies, only faithful wingman Malcolm Treece remains. So what to expect? The celebration of the Stuffies that was their Gangshow gig last Christmas, or a new incarnation eschewing the past? Do we come to bury Caesar, or to praise him?

The truth, as ever, was somewhere in between. Following our arrival at a sparsely populated venue during the last knockings of local band Undercut's tuneful set, we endured the horrible averageness of Dharma Drive before taking a spot stage left, noticing the Stuffies stage set-up was the usual fairy-lights illuminated affair, with a big "Rubbish Island" backdrop. Miles and Co. flounced on at 9.15 to a huge ovation from the by-now happier, fuller venue, previewed a new number from the new CD, then kicked into the menacing statement of intent that is "On the Ropes", my favourite Stuffies song. The set was a combination of new numbers, full of bile and vitriol yet tuneful and flippant with it, and a happily less predictable selection of oldies. The moody "30 Years In The Bathroom" and the catchy flippant rap of "Radio Ass Kiss", both unexpected, set the tone for the back catalogue trawl - mainly numbers which didn't need the fiddles of absent Martin Bell, so no "Size Of A Cow", "Golden Green" and so on.

Miles was in fine, unusually self-deprecating and fulsome form throughout, at one point starting his own "you fat bastard" chant against himself! Also telling a story about an encounter with Joe Strummer and calling a heckler a "cocksmoker" for interrupting. Typical Miles! Musically, the new line-up took time to bed in, but by the mid-set "Poison", they were as strident and powerful as ever. The superb set closer "Ten Trenches Deep" and the, "meanwhile, back at the Groove Machine..." encore segment, particularly "Red Berry Joy Town", were excellent. So, the Stuffies; back in rude health and ready to take on the world? We'll see...

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