Rootsy English rock band The Wonder Stuff presented a genuinely exciting alternative to what was widely considered alternative music during the late '80s. In other words, the band's unique blend of frenetic punk rock energy with well-placed touches of Hammond organ and fiddle sounds immediately fresh and engaging. By this time, bands like The Smiths, The Cure and Psychedelic Furs had certainly made a name for British alternative music in both the U.K. and U.S. However, The Wonder Stuff quietly forged a new path, taking some cues from Ireland's U2 but also drawing from organic, earthy American music for inspiration as well. As a lead singer and frontman, Miles Hunt sounds as much like Material Issue's Jim Ellison as he does any of his contemporary countrymen. This versatility makes it seem even stranger that this great band remains virtually unknown in the U.S. as a key representative of early alternative rock.
"Cartoon Boyfriend" deserves attention as a standout track from 1989's Hup if for no other reason than its priceless one-line lyric in the chorus: "Cartoon boyfriend, when you gonna rub yourself out?" However, there are a multitude of other reasons to recommend this track, not to mention several other highly distinct tunes from this highly underrated record. In the specific case of "Cartoon Boyfriend," jaunty fiddle parts bounce exuberantly against chiming guitars to create an exhilarating listening experience. Still, the delivery and urgent style of Hunt's lead vocals ultimately command the greatest attention, even if violinist Martin Bell serves as a significant secret weapon. Quite simply, this is wonderful stuff, if you'll excuse the inevitable double pun.
- Sample or download "Cartoon Boyfriend" here.
- Compare prices on The Wonder Stuff CDs here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Polydor