Wonder Years

After 12 years of waiting, fans of the once-hot band are rewarded with a new CD.

It's been a dozen years since the Wonder Stuff has recorded a new album, and frontman Miles Hunt is resigned to the fact that most listeners who can recall its 1991 modern-rock hit, "The Size of a Cow," have forgotten all about the band by now. "It's understandable," he sighs.

But with a new CD, Escape From Rubbish Island, and outlook ("It's a million times better now," he says), Hunt's revamped group is prepped for a comeback -- even if it is being staged at a lesser level. "Once you become successful, your band becomes a business," he says. "That's why I left the band. I don't like the stupid idea of the major [label] world."

At the start of the '90s, the Wonder Stuff was massively huge in its native England (it racked up 17 Top 20 singles). Hunt steamrolled over the press, radio, and audiences with an arrogance that matched the big, bold guitars that often accented his band's variation on British pop. There were fiddles, banjos, mandolins, and accordions in the mix. And it fit snugly onto alternative nation's risk-taking playlists at the time.

Never Loved Elvis (from 1991) generated buzz in the States, and the radio success of "The Size of a Cow" guaranteed filled seats throughout its nationwide tour. Two years later, Construction for the Modern Idiot was released at the same time as the band announced its breakup. "Democracy in a band just doesn't work," says Hunt, hinting at the behind-the-scenes struggle for control.

A few years ago, Hunt and co-founder-guitarist Malc Treece began performing acoustic shows in the U.S. "But I got tired of doing that," says Hunt. "I just wanted to make another record."

The result is an album that's just a little bit nostalgic. Escape From Rubbish Island is a charred valentine to Hunt's homeland, made by a group of guys (only Hunt and Treece remain from the original lineup) who feel there's nothing left to prove. "It's about being creative and enjoying yourself," says Hunt. "I have no interest in having hits. And I have no concept of money, much to the frustration of my child's mother."