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From the rousing opening number, 'Tricks of the Trade', it's clear that this is more the result of a band pulling in the same direction again and sharing ideas as a unit but still with the unmistakeable Hunt hallmarks. The first half of the album barely hits a duff note; standout tracks in the form of the aforementioned opener, the first single 'Blah Blah La Di Dah', the punchy 'Say it Ain't So' and the gorgeous, reflective 'The Sun Goes Down on Manor Road' invoke thoughts of "Stuffies classics in the making". These tracks could be from any era really and are bound to feature in setlists for a while to come, sitting perfectly amongst the old favourites. Tricks of the Trade and Manor Road especially, are about as infectious as anything they have ever done. In a nutshell, it starts off sounding like a Wonder Stuff album should (it's mixed better than the last one too): lyrics and tunes up to scratch (Angelica Maybe is a minute or two too long perhaps, but patience folks - Miles has another story to tell), a fuller sound (helped by Erica Nockalls' excellent violin playing) and you find yourself asking if the second half of the album can get any better!
The answer, sadly, is no. Much of what is left isn't up to the standard of the first few tracks; even though they do improve with repeated listens, there isn't quite the musical exhileration and bite of the opening barrage of songs. Even the great albums contain the odd filler but perhaps the tracklisting could have been slightly better? It's a minor gripe, all things considered as - on the whole - this is better than anything Mr Hunt and co have delivered in absolutely ages! Many early reports (talking about actual fans, not two-bit industry hacks) summed it up that there's something for everyone on this album. That's not far off the mark.
The best way to approach this album, however, is as the first proper offering from the Wonder Stuff as they are now; with the 'new boys' Mark and Andres as much a part of the group as old hands Miles and Malc; all mucking in and making this better than a lot of the rubbish out there. Many bands would take twice as long to come up with something half this good. So, this time, accept it - this IS The Wonder Stuff. And they're sounding pretty great to me. Maybe the definitive Stuffies album is still yet to come...
This album itself is not perfect, it does tail off towards the end but there are plenty of "proper" Wonder Stuff tracks to get your teeth into (Tricks of the Trade, Blah Blah are immediate stand outs).
Overall, it's not quite up there with Hup, Never Loved Elvis or Groove Machine but it's a superb fourth place!
But it didn't take long for that feeling to be replaced by smiles, this album marks a return to form.
As others have said songs like 'Blah Blah...' 'Tricks of the Trade' and my 2 favourites 'We Hold Each Other Up' and 'Last Second of the Minute' are just classic Wonder Stuff songs.
If you've had any interest the the band before, buy this album.
Every band member has a huge muiscal talent. - There are No weak links here ! Read more
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