The Wonderstuff in the Tramshed on a school night?  Couldn’t think of anything better if I’m honest.  Deja Vega takes the stage at eight o’clock and the room is sparsely populated and the band proceeds to give the people who’ve turned up early doors their everything but I notice the guitarist is breaking all sorts of unwritten laws with regards to how high to wear one’s guitar and the belt buckle rule is broken.  Me, I’m disappointed to say the least and can’t get beyond this.  The band is alright knocking out their guitar driven indie but the songs just tend to go on and any tunes get lost in the muddy mix even if the bass player wields a decent sounding Rickenbacker round and the one track I could make out ‘Mr. Powder’ tended to go on a bit too long but tonight was all about the stuffies maybe on another night under different circumstances my opinion would be different.

The Wonder Stuff have been on a journey and I feel like I’ve been on that journey with them from the start when they showed up on the scene playing guitar driven music with a bit of folk – plenty of wah and a heap of attitude oh, and bad shorts.  I love them then and I love them now from Milos lyrics and his spikey, abrasive, confrontational attitude and his mile-wide grin and cheeky chat as far as I was concerned they didn’t make a single bad song until ‘Rubbish Island’ and its not like it was rubbish but it just wasn’t what I wanted and maybe it was me and not them. Hell I even loved the acoustic solo shows the duet shows with Erica and I’ve loved their live sets they’ve mixed up in the last half decade tonight flanking Milo was old boy Malc Treece (guitar) and Mark Gemini Thwaite playing the Bass no less and finally on drums Pete Howard  takes the stage along with mainstays Erica and Milo they get straight down to business with ‘Mission Drive’ followed by ‘Caught In My Shadow’ and already its obvious that the band are right on it and mean business.  Milo announces that the band has been recording a new album and if it was alright they were just going to play a whole bunch of old tunes and weren’t going to fuck about with new songs (as if we minded).  It seemed everyone in attendance was happy with that although I can’t help but think it would have gotten the same response had he said they were going to play just new unheard songs.

As I looked around the Tramshed it was pleasing that the place was rammed full of people out for a good time on a school night. As the band eased through the gears it looked like they were having the best of times and it was contagious.  ‘Circlesquare’, ‘Red Berry Joy Town’, ‘On The Ropes’ and ‘Here Comes Everyone’ were sing songs as everyone got involved.  As the intros kicked in I found myself daydreaming to past shows like Reading festival and hearing them blast through ‘Size Of A Cow’ or Bescott when ‘Welcome To the Cheap Seats’ burst into life.

 

Damn The Wonderstuff have got so many good tunes from the earlier songs like ‘Ruby Horse’ to the bigger hits it was songs like ‘Wish Away’ or ‘Ten Trenches Deep’ that had slipped off my radar but not tonight – they sounded fresh and a match for anyone tonight the Stuffies could have gone toe to toe with anyone and everyone.  Although tonight was a greatest hits set they’ve remained fresh and continued to turn out albums that are worthy of the Wonder Stuff monicker and what a legacy.

Before we knew it the band had left the stage it seemed like ten minutes ago they began such was the good time we were having. With no less than five songs in the encore ‘Can’t Shape Up’, ‘Cartoon Boyfriend’ and the fantastic ‘Radio Ass Kiss’ closed off ‘Hup’ in fine style and probably my favourite album from the band which left the sublime ‘Disco King’ and to finish off a rare B Side ‘A Song Without An End’ to keep the anoraks like myself happy.  As I make my way home I’m mulling over what they didn’t play and why no ‘Goodnight Though’ to finish off with or how it might be nice to hear a cover of ‘Planet Earth’ thrown in just for giggles.  Oh well, maybe next time eh?  If you get the chance go see The Wonder Stuff because they are excellent – most excellent regardless of what’s in the set list.  Now get on with that new album – pretty please.

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Author: Dom Daley

20th March 2007 was the last time I saw the “classic” line up of Towers of London live, in of all places London. It was also to be one of their last headline gigs together. Fast forward 12 years and the prospect of seeing Donny, Dirk, Rev, Snell and Tommy back together on stage really is getting me all nervous. Not least because I’m due to meet up with the guys beforehand to hand over some much sought-after film footage that has been in possession all these years that the guys now need for an upcoming documentary. A film, as I was soon to find out, they want to be a true reflection of their time together back in the mid-noughties, not some cheap expose piece only looking to create headlines.  

That reckless sense of irresponsibility that drove the band first time around has very much been replaced by a more focussed and mature set of heads all looking to finally set the record straight both off and on stage, and what better way to start than by heading off on an eight date UK tour supporting The Wildhearts with Massive Wagons also along for this rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster ride too.

Unfortunately tonight I can only stick around to witness the return of  Towers Of London so I’ll leave the full gig reviews to my RPM colleagues to pick up at subsequent dates, but this is a very well-attended tour that’s for sure, with two dates sold out in advance and quite a few of the others close to capacity . This, in turn, means Towers of London get to play to full rooms and most importantly to a largely new audience, so come 7:30 sharp I’m stood a couple of rows from the barrier waiting for that infamous air raid siren intro tape to go up, before the 5 black boiler-suited Towers guys open fire with ‘I’m A Rat’ and suddenly all the years they’ve been away just seem…well….insignificant.   This is the band who I thought could be the UK’s answer to Guns N’ Roses and save for a few, ahem, “misplaced” career decisions along the way what this line up did leave us with was one of the finest debut albums of the last 40 years.

Tonight then their nine-song set is split 60/40 in favour of that ‘Blood Sweat and Towers’ album and along with the likes of ‘Beaujolais’ and ‘Air Guitar’ the newer tracks (all set to be included on their as yet untitled third album) like the stadium rocker ‘Shot In The Dark’ complete with Snell thumping the kit and Rev adding the guitar chops now come over as with much more sneer and a lot less veneer, and the more polished sound that had been creeping into the band’s musical direction really has been toughened up with the return of the old guard. ‘Kill The Popscene’ indeed, but sadly that anthem is nowhere to be seen tonight.

Finishing their 30-minute set with Donny face to face with the front rows for a stinging ‘Fuck It Up’, it’s his comment “we’ve all fucked something up” just as he lets the microphone fall to the floor that perhaps best sums up this new/old version of Towers Of London. It’s that old Drink Fight Fuck spirit but without any of that “baggage” getting in the way of you finally realising that Towers of London were never really a guilty pleasure they were always a fucking great rock ‘n’ roll band. 

Now, let’s have album number three and the highly anticipated documentary and perhaps finally we’ll get see Towers of London make it big. Who’s with me?

Author: Johnny Hayward