mike davies -december 2019

Still going strong and on bristling good form, THE WONDER STUFF are back with their ninth studio album, Better Being Lucky (Good Deeds) seeing the return of original guitarist, Malc Treece, alongside regulars violinist Erica Nockalls, bassist Tim Sewell, Pete Howard on drums and third guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite.


It opens in instantly infectious style with Feet To The Flames, a circling and cascading guitar riff finding Hunt in unforgiving mode (“You put my feet to the flames and I will never forget that”) before getting moodier with the pizzicato violin frills and prowling riff of the massive swirl of Lay Down Your Cards looking for transparency even if it comes with negative consequences because “I’m so tired of this need to appease.” The slower, bass-anchored Don’t Anyone Dare Give A Damn keeps things on the musically darker side as he sings about how everyone has a flaw and phony sincerity and how “we’re all here in the dark” before things get into heavy riff territory on the bluesy No Thieves Among Us which kind of echoes the same pessimistic/liberating sentiment in “there’s no thieves among us not committing a crime”, though this too comes with a big soaring chorus.

Back to the bounce and, conjuring their 90s indie-rock sound, the title track again casts a Hunt eye over the human condition and decides that on love’s constantly shifting playing field you’re better trusting in luck than making plans before a clattering salvo of drums introduces the martial beat drive of the exuberant Bound which lyrically turns the opening track on its head as he declares that “There are those that judge and bear a grudge where nothing is forgiven” is no way to live your life and, whatever fall outs may come, the bonds of real friendship will always remain.

Introduced with an almost eastern flavour to the melody with its pulsing strings, It’s The Little Things again adopts a heavy grinding riff for the verses while the chorus erupts into an urgent flurry, Howard’s kit once more laying the foundations on the psychedelic swirl of When All Of This Is Over, which is actually a retitled rework of Custodian off his recent solo album of the same name, slowing it all down or The Guy With The Gift, showcasing some lovely keening violin from Knockalls, a tribute to all of Hunt’s heroes who lived up to expectations and provided the spur to not give up and, instead, to “build a bigger table”.

The-Wonder-Stuff album

That notion of a chain of support and inspiration (“You’d never get here by yourself/There are always debts to someone else”) flows over into Let’s Not Pretend, the more musically complex number on the album with its shifting time signatures, sonic stormclouds and interlacing of guitars and drums, before it all ends on a softer, folksy pop note with the six-minute Maps & Directions, the first song written for the album, a lengthy intro mingling electric and acoustic colours before the understated vocals kick in on a song that, as the title suggests, is about looking for guidance but also concerns heritage, mortality and impermanence. The final lines are “When I leave I’ll leave without a trace”; not with albums of this quality he won’t.

KATHERINE PRIDDY follows-up her debut EP Wolf with limited edition single Letters From a Travelling Man (Static Caravan), an upbeat, frisky Americana-styled number that takes its inspiration from her experiences of living on the road and the struggles of trying to maintain relationships alongside an unsettled lifestyle. Paired with the softer slower strummed Come and Go , a yearning for a place to call home but acceptance that everything must inevitably pass, where she duets with Northern folk singer-songwriter George Boomsma, it’s released digitally as well as a limited run of collectable coloured vinyl alongside a postcard urging the listener to rediscover the lost art of letter-writing. Drop her line.

black thursday

ANGRYFISH is basically Robin Surgeoner, formerly guitarist with early 90s Birmingham outfit Dan Dare’s Dog singer-songwriter, poet and playwright (and Paralympic Gold Medallist swimmer) who now works in both mainstream and a Disability Arts settings. Featuring former Au Pairs guitarist Paul Foad, released in advance of the Dec 12 General Election, his new single, Black Thursday, is a remix radio edit (trimmed by two minutes from the six and half minute original) of the track from the similarly titled 2016 album, an adenoidal speak-sing country blues lope about making your vote count but how, whatever the result, “the poor and the needy will be victims once again” with its singalong chorus of “Gentrification justification the cleansing of the poor/Propaganda the weapon that fuels the obsession that all we need is a cure”.

roots-and-branches.com 2020