12th April | O2 Academy
Photos: Jess Greenwood
Britpop has a lot to answer for. This was confirmed emphatically on Thursday night, when The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin brought their double-headliner Love From Stourbridge tour to the O2 Academy. Before Britpop swaggered in, with its shiny, Blairite, corporate take on geezerish rebellion, the early 90s had indie. Independent, either of label or of spirit, indie had the same kudos and usage as ‘DIY’ has today.
Indie had plenty of interesting sub-genres, like the ungainly, unrestrained Madchester bounce or the oceanic guitar whirlpool of shoegaze. Indie celebrated ‘scenes,’ recognising hotbeds of talent around the UK. The post-industrial town of Stourbridge was one. Its fertile scene gave us tonight’s bands. Britpop’s lame concession to regionalism was the cheeky mockneys vs parka monkeys, Blur/Oasis ‘Britpop War.’
It’d be crass to say that the Britpop era had no decent tunes. It had loads. What it definitely managed, though, was to smother indie and its ‘never mind the image, feel the noise’ ethos. Indie was one big house party, to which everyone was invited. Britpop always felt like it had a guest list and a dress code. Love From Stourbridge brought carefree carousal firmly back to 2018.
Wonder Stuff frontman, Miles Hunt, was on riotous, unwearied form, despite a cold – full of life, with spring in his step and in his still-impressive hair. He mocked himself as a fifty-two-year-old man “fucking around on social media” for conducting a fan poll over whether to play ‘It’s Yer Money I’m After, Baby’ or ‘Radio Ass Kiss.’ The former won. Miles wanted to play the latter. They played both, to significant approval.
Erica Nockalls was imposing and virtuosic on the violin, especially on ‘Caught in my Shadow’ and ‘Here Comes Everyone.’ Dan Donnelly frequently guitar-duelled with Miles, before lying down for set closer ‘Ten Trenches Deep.’ The guitar roadie (possibly the hardest working member of the whole potent cohort) couldn’t sort Dan’s unco-operative guitar strap, despite spending half the song up close and personal.
‘Golden Green’ was bathed in appropriately-coloured lighting. If there’s ever another Shrek film, this has to be on the soundtrack. The swirling shredfest during ‘Who Wants to be the Disco King’ was thrilling. ‘Unbearable’ as the other half of the encore brought wild-eyed frenzy, both from audience and lead singer.
With two bass players frequently carrying the tune, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s set had the additional benefits of reflexology. You felt it through your soles. Were there not the reality of sticky floors and discarded plastic glasses, you could have taken shoes and socks off and had a belting foot massage, especially during ‘Throwing Things.’
Jonn Penney proudly declared that Ned’s Atomic Dustbin fielded their entire original line-up. Three-fifths looked somewhat different from back when they played ‘Happy’ on Top of the Pops in 1991, although Gareth “Rat” Pring and Jonn himself had moments (Jonn’s flailing fringe and Rat’s shoegaze guitar during ‘Not Sleeping Around’) when you could forget that someone had sneaked the original Ned’s into old men’s bodies.
Like the Stuffies before them, they packed in twenty songs. The run of ‘Cut Up,’ ‘Happy’ and ‘Grey Cell Green’ near the end tested the audience’s energy reserves and resulted in much projectile beer. The encore consisted of their ultimate mosh-motivator, ‘Kill Your Television’ and ‘Selfish.’ The line, “I hope your head’s aching/ from having too much fun” may well have had extra prescience on Friday morning.
There are too many middle-aged blokes crammed into Lycra and wedged onto road bikes nowadays. IndieFit ought to be a thing. Love From Stourbridge showed that you can keep yourself youthful by bouncing around to high-tempo guitar music, whilst wearing jeans and a t-shirt.