Back in the fall of 1988 I clapped eyes on the Stuffies for the first time. In the throes of their 'Eight Legged Groove Machine' tour and supporting the release of their major label debut for Polydor. the Leadmill was packed to the rafters with sweat dripping from the ceiling. Tonight, 18 years on, it's equally as rammed albeit with a slightly older but no less exuberant clientele. The cynics amongst us could be forgiven for asking whether this all just another ill-advised 80/90's nostalgia trip by some 40- somethings fed up with the day job. Certainly original drummer and bassist Martin Gilks and Martin Bell are none too pleased with the band's current incarnation, having been left in the cold, to leave Miles Hunt and Malcolm Treece as the sole founder members. But this is more than a retread of old material for a bit of ready cash and more of a chance to see one of the UK's most underrated bands from yesteryear.

Time has certainly been kind to vocalist and chief protagonist Miles Hunt. The flowing locks have long since gone but the Johnny Rotten-like glint in the eyes still remains. The set unwinds with songs from their recently released new album 'Escape from Rubbish Island'. The title track and 'Bile Chant' kick ass with the trademark musical hooks and lyrical barbs of Wonder Stuff material of old. Mid-set the band are joined on fiddle by the rather gorgeous Erica Nockalls for a hat-trick of tunes from the band's 'Never Loved Elvis' era. It brings a distinctively Irish flavour to proceedings, steering the band into waters previously chartered by the Pogues. It also provides the first of several high points in the evening's set in the shape of a rousing version of 'Here Comes Everyone'.

More hits follow. 'Don't Bring Me Down' heralds bouts of pogoing and 'Circlesquare' yields the best lyric of the night ("I've been a long term disappointment to myself"). Unsurprisingly though, the most tumultuous reception is reserved for the 'Eight Legged Groove Machine' material - still, arguably, one of the best debuts by a British band. 'Poison', 'Ruby Horse' and 'A Wish Away' sound as fresh and ascorbic as when they were first unleashed on Thatcher's Britain back in the late 80's. And there's even the reappearance of Hunt’s infamous megaphone for a scathing reading of 'Donation'. Encoring with more 'Groove Machine' material, the acoustic indie punk of 'Unbearable' and "Give Give Give Me More More More' provide the backdrop for more frenzied moshing down the front before 'Room 410' from the 'Hup' album brings a close on proceedings.

Dated and irrelevant in the 21st century? Far from it. Time to dust off your old Stuffies albums and reappraise Stourbridge's finest, and, perhaps even shell out on the new LP.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by John Harris and appear on his website http://www.livephotos.homestead.com











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