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Miles Hunt, the lead singer-songwriter for the wiseacre Brit-pop group the Wonder Stuff, claims that he gets too embarrassed to sing love songs, but that's not entirely accurate. True, most of the songs on the four albums his band has recorded for the Polygram label since 1986 avoid sappy lyrics in favor of catchy guitars and airwave-friendly choruses. But Hunt concedes that he's penned a pair of exceptions. "`Hot Love Now' is a great corny love song," he says. "And `It's Your Money I'm After Baby' was me confessing my love for myself."
Clearly, Hunt doesn't lack self-esteem. When asked about his band's fourth and latest album, Construction for the Modern Idiot, he proclaims, "I love it. It's rather self-indulgent of me. I don't know many people that listen to their own records for pleasure--I do."
This enthusiasm would be less defensible if Construction wasn't so strong. But strong it is, thanks to the Wonder Stuff's new five-man lineup: Hunt, drummer Martin Gilks, hot-tempered guitarist/ backing vocalist Malcolm Treece, bassist Paul Clifford and Martin Bell, who throws his keyboards, violins and banjos into all the right places. The group recorded 31 tracks for the project before picking the best twelve, and they obviously chose well: The disc grabs a listener's ears with its first number, "Change Every Light Bulb," and doesn't let go until the last notes of the concluding song, "Sing the Absurd." Hunt promises that should America demand to hear the nineteen songs that didn't make Construction's final cut, the band will release them--and if the reaction to the video hit "Full of Life (Happy Now)" and the spooky "Storm Drain" are any indication, America already has cast its vote in the affirmative.
So has Hunt, who co-founded the Wonder Stuff with Treece and Gilks eight years ago. After acknowledging his dislike for the "indie music" that was in vogue when his band first hit the scene, he adds, "I suppose it's probably still true to say that the Wonder Stuff is my favorite band."
The other members of the Wonder Stuff share Hunt's confidence. They've never worried much about public opinion, and the release of the nose-thumbing tunes "Astley in the Noose" and "Radio Asskiss" (both on the 1989 album Hup!) earned them a reputation as media-bashers--the Sex Pistols without heroin. Hunt doesn't deny that these songs were controversial. "I wonder why our radio plugger would ever have done any work for us again after that," he says. "But they put up with us. I don't really try and have a dig at them that much these days because I'm on the level with it all now where I can understand it."
That's not to say that Hunt has great respect for the cogs in the publicity machine. "There are a lot of foolish people working within the music industry," he notes. "But thankfully you always seem to find the bright sparks, people who absolutely agree with you and think [the business] is too corporate and not as exciting as it should be. I suppose they recognize their own frustrations within something that we've sung about."
An example of Hunt's ability to channel his anger into music can be found in Construction's "I Wish Them All Dead," which he wrote about the Man-Boy Love Association (MBLA), a San Francisco-based organization that condones and even promotes sexual relations between adults and minors. "I don't want to sound like fucking Sinead O'Connor or something," he insists, "but I was just watching TV in a hotel one time in America, and I saw this program on it. It just disgusted me. There was a guitar in the room, and I just banged out all these hateful thoughts, basically." He adds, somewhat apologetically, "I don't really want to get on a high horse and get all moral. I usually only get asked about [the MBLA] when doing interviews with North American people, because in England nobody really knows them."
In spite of this display of social consciousness, Hunt mainly sees the Wonder Stuff in terms of what it means to him. "There's a lot of pleasure in it for me to be with the people that I'm with, doing what I do," he says. "I do get frustrated with the lack of point in the grand scheme of things in my life, but then I think, well, that's pretty much the way the world works. And when I moan about it in interviews, I get a barrage of letters from kids who are into the group saying, `You're wrong! You're wrong! You don't know there's a lot of things that you do for us.' And then I think, `Oh God, now it's all gone wrong.' It's as if they think I was sitting there wanting to be slapped on the back, and that wasn't the point at all."
So what is the point? For Hunt, it's very simple. "We haven't done any serious tour for almost two years," he says. "So we're very glad to get out and annoy people again."
The Wonder Stuff, with Chapterhouse. 8 p.m. Sunday, February 13, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder, $10, 290-
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