The Wonder Stuff – Never Loved Elvis

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

There was a period of time in college when I listened to this album constantly. I caught the band at the right time – the Wonder Stuff were never able to recreate this peak.  Never Loved Elvis succeeds because so many things came together or broke the right way at the same time: musical polymath Martin Bell fully transformed the band’s sound; Miles Hunt found the right balance between sweet and sour in his songwriting; and the band executed a turn towards the mature and even refined while retaining energy and a sense of fun. It’s arguably true that I never loved Elvis but I once loved the Wonder Stuff.

What I Think of This Album

The best Wonder Stuff album by miles (get it?). As on Hup, there is a batch of great songs, but this time there are more of them and they are surrounded by good songs as opposed to sticking out as anomalous flashes. Instrumental (I can do this all day) to the success of the album is the multi-talented Bell, whose violin, banjo, accordion, mandolin, and guitar permit the band to explore styles and sounds previously out of their grasp.

“Welcome to the Cheap Seats,” a folky circus-like number that celebrates cross-dressing, owes its charm to the accordion part, but it’s guest Linda McRae who deserves credit. The string quartet in the bridge is a brilliant choice, too; indeed, the entire arrangement on this song is fantastic. The ubiquitous Kirsty MacColl sings backup on this excellent song, whose only drawback is that it is too short. The other obvious highlight is “Size of a Cow,” which borrows from the Kinks, and uses cheeky sound effects and Bell’s skills on banjo (as well as some guest organ and music hall piano) to craft a strong pop number. Bell’s accordion and violin (and eventually banjo) shine on the fine “Maybe” (which takes a swipe at Michael Stipe); this is a compelling number full of confusion, frustration, and resignation, with some of Hunt’s best lyrics of the album.

The strings on the crashing “Here Comes Everyone” are excellent, and Hunt once again delivers a winning performance on vocals. “Caught In My Shadow” is a nice little pop song with a bouncing bass and delicate riff, as well as more violin. Bell’s mandolin is key to the reflective “Sleep Alone,” and Hunt adds a nice harmonica, too. The band stretches out to mix wah-wah guitar, violin, and pounding drums on the slithering, dark “Donation.” “Inertia” is a straight-ahead rocker with excellent violin work (and wah-wah again low in the mix) and a nice subtle organ part. “Grotesque” muscles ahead with an unrelenting rhythm but mixes it up with some tempo shifts and unexpected arrangement flourishes. End-of-friendship song “Mission Drive” effectively builds from an intricate bed of guitars to a rousing burst of frantic violin work. The remainder of the album is at least adequate, and nothing here is bad. Mick Glossop produced, as he had for the Alarm, the London Suede, and Magazine.

The Best Thing About This Album

This album would be nothing without secret weapon Martin Bell.

Release Date

May, 1991

The Cover Art

None of this should work, but I like it anyway. The mix of mint green, orange, yellow, and pink sounds terrible but comes across okay. The collage of images is also messy without being problematic – I really like the pills. I don’t know. Somehow, this is effective. The image on the right is from the remastered version, and adds that circular black element (a sticker, I’m guessing).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑