POP / The last Hunt ball: The Wonder Stuff, Phoenix Festival

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The Independent Online
So farewell, then, Wonder Stuff - officially dissolved last Friday night. Miles Hunt, the lead singer, had always threatened to give up the game when it got boring, just to prove he hadn't been inducted into the moronic inferno he constantly railed against.

For an encore at their last ever gig, at the Phoenix Festival at Stratford-Upon-Avon, they brought on Vic Reeves, 'the man who made us the famous pop stars that we are' for a rendition of 'Dizzy'. Since this was their only Number One single, there was a grain of truth in Hunt's automatic irony. It must be a little sad to be an energetic rock band with lyrics which often confront serious subjects for your best known work (and only Number One) to be a novelty recorded with a comedian. Good job it was Vic really. He looked swell in his brown moleskins and white grandad shirt, and gamely improvised on the red megaphone as the boys fell around the stage in drunken laughter.

One of the problems with the band's decision to split up is that they're said to be six figures deep in debt. A live album of this show and a Greatest Hits album are proposed for the autumn to help settle their account with Polydor. On the strength of this show, however, there's a danger that the two albums might turn out to be identical - this from the band that has always fiercely resisted marketing tools.

Despite the symbolic cropping of his locks, Hunt still had the strength to spit out songs such as 'It's Your Money I'm After Baby' and 'Radio Ass Kiss' with the venomous brand of humour he has made his own.

The wheedling fiddle and acoustic guitar of 'Cartoon Boyfriend' reminded one of how the Stuff flew in the face of fashion, building a career on the ruins of the hippie-punk scene (The Mission, The Nephs), in spite of the baggie boom and the rise of dance music. They were men with long hair making music for fans with nose-rings. At the memorial service last year for their former bassist Bob Jones, for example, they played Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' on a cassette recorder.

Wonder Stuff fans have been as passionate as any in the last eight years, but they somehow manage to maintain a critical scorn that matches the humour of their leader. 'As of midnight, we're nobody, so please, no more autographs,' said Hunt. To which Pete, 22, unemployed, from Birmingham, said: 'I don't mind really. I think he'll go off and get himself a proper job. He's that kind of bloke.' In fact, it turns out he's been offered a job as a presenter for MTV.

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