The Wonder Stuff – Hup

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I love a smartass. Miles Hunt is a caustic, snide, disdainful songwriter, and just as importantly, singer. He really leans into the lyrics and makes you feel just how little he thinks of whoever the target of the song is. Not every song is like this, but enough that it drew me to the band. This was another act that broke up and then reformed many years later, and I never really got into the later stuff. Of course, the Wonder Stuff weren’t a top tier band, anyway. They had one really good album and some strong tracks scattered across a few others. Some people really like the debut, The Eight-Legged Groove Machine, but I don’t care for it at all.

What I Think of This Album

Let me be clear:  this is not a good Wonder Stuff album. It is an okay album with a few very good-to-excellent songs and a lot of forgettable cuts; it seems overlong at just twelve tracks, which is a bad sign. Not-yet-fully-incorporated-band-member Martin Bell, who plays banjo and violin, is key to the band’s evolving sound (though the real payoff was on the subsequent album, Never Loved Elvis).

The twin highlights are “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” and “Piece of Sky.” The former is a tuneful, driving number with a rapid fire delivery from Hunt, some great guitar work, energetic drumming, a killer chorus, and guest organ tones from James Taylor but not that James Taylor. The latter has some nicely syncopated drumming, pleasant vocal harmonies, a delicate guitar riff, and some fine – and dark and disturbing – lyrics from Hunt; the band sounds relaxed and playful, but also dead serious here. “Can’t Shape Up” is almost on par with these two, boasting a bevy of cool riffs, some nice bass work, more great backing vocals, and an appealing, emotive vocal from Hunt.

Bouncy country number “Golden Green” displays the horizon-broadening impact of Bell’s versatility, and the same is true of rustic “Unfaithful.” Deep cut “Them Big Oak Trees” is tolerable but unmemorable, whereas “30 Years In the Bathroom,” “Good Night Though,” “Room 410,” and the seam-revealing “Radio Ass Kiss” are truly awful.

Trivia:  Miles Hunt’s uncle, Bill Hunt, played keyboards with ELO and Wizzard. Producer Pat Collier (the Vibrators) has also worked with the House of Love, Robyn Hitchcock, and Kingmaker.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Oh the knives / The blood / The bad / The good / Do you think you could? / Da da da da da da / Oooooooooooo” from “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” still sounds cool.

Release Date

October, 1989

The Cover Art

I never liked the band’s logo. I approve of the large font for the title and the color scheme generally. I’m sort of agnostic on the imagery from Georges Mèliés’s A Trip to the Moon. The actual art is not as dark as the image here (what looks like very dark blue is supposed to be a more gentle purple).

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