Firstly, sorry for the lack of updates. Secondly, this wasn’t really the post I intended to write today. I’ve been feeling a bit low for the past couple of days (various thoughts/doubts piling up on each other, gradually crushing my skull like a kitten under Geoff Capes after a pie-eating contest, where he came a respectable 3rd. Heartburn caused a forfeit.), but instead of writing a 1,000+ word sulk, I might as well be a bit more constructive.
Last weekend, I was part of another play- Under The Blue Sky by David Eldridge. A rather interesting 3-act play about a group of teachers, their various pasts and short-term futures. It’s definitely something I can say I was proud to have worked on.
I was asked to supply a soundtrack again. This time, with more limitations- the play is set between 1996 and 1998 (moving between dates), so therefore for accuracy’s sake, the music must be correct for the time, and fit the situations. Therefore, Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian and Spiritualized were the orders of the day. But on the last night (Saturday), something amazing happened. The curtain call was soundtracked by The Wedding Present- ‘Come Play With Me’, to be exact…
I now feel that I have accomplished everything I’ve wanted as an actor…with the exception of starring in a pantomime, which would be accompanied with the mentality of a kamikaze pilot.
So, why do I like them? Surely, as a Wedding Present fan, I should prefer either The Smiths or Pavement- using the old saying that TWP are every 80s-indie fan’s 2nd-favourite band. But there are a few factors to consider…
If I could make an album, and I was able to choose freely who to produce it, I wouldn’t have to hesitate (all time, I’d probably edge towards Martin Hannett, but this is being a shade more realistic, with Albini still being alive.). The man’s CV is nothing short of amazing- In Utero, Surfer Rosa, Songs About Fucking, Rid Of Me, Journal For Plague Lovers, Low’s Transmission EP…and in 1991, The Wedding Present utilised his genius for a single, an EP, and Seamonsters. I’d even go as far as to say it may be Mr. Albini’s best piece of production, with songs such as ‘Blonde’ and ‘Dalliance’ showing off the best example of ‘quiet-loud-quiet-even louder’ this side of Pixies. The drums are pounding throughout, with the bass really prominent in the mix. It’s a very ‘of it’s time’ record, but it’s also something stood out from the pack somewhat- at the time, most British alternative music was influenced by either shoegazing, Madchester or acid house. Seamonsters looked grungeward, and it payed off.
TWP recorded another album with Steve Albini some 17 years later, El Rey– a more mature, post-Cinerama album. While not as critically acclaimed as Seamonsters, I’d recommend giving it a listen.
A Lack Of ‘Bad Patch’
Even their worst album isn’t that bad- following lineup changes, record label changes and the Hit Parade experiment (I’ll get back to that), 1994’s Watusi is a departure from both the rapid-fire jangle of the band’s early work, and the noise of Seamonsters. A sunny, 60s-influence collection of songs, it seemed to be at the wrong place at the wrong time…but it’s not that bad an album. Yeah, it’s no Bizarro or Take Fountain, but it’s still alright. Compare to other ‘weak’ albums- Lifeblood (Manic Street Preachers), A New Morning (Suede), Tonight and/or Never Let Me Down (David Bowie)- at least material from Watusi is still played live.
The Hit Parade ‘experiment’ is a funny one, too. 12 limited-edition 7″ vinyl singles released, 1 per month, with a cover version on the B-side. There are some absolute gems during this time (‘Come Play With Me’, ‘California’ and ‘Loveslave’ being my highlights)…but there are a few duds in there too, truth be told.
Along with Magnetic Field Stephin Merritt, David Gedge may well be one of the most underrated songwriters of the last 20 years. Although you could argue he’s been plowing the same field in terms of subject material (essentially, the darker, more realistic side of a love song- heartache, lust, desperation, infidelity. The usual.), but I can’t think of anyone who does it better, keeping the level of realism. His songs, for better or worse, are relatable. If I had £1 (or $1) for every time I’ve thought to myself “[expletive], this is like being in a Wedding Present song…”, I’d be rather rich. Even just from the last couple of weeks.
I could give examples of lyrics here, but there’s that many to choose from I couldn’t take just one extract. You’ll just have to listen.
If it wasn’t for this man, British music (both mainstream and alternative) would have run a very different course. Other than The Fall, TWP racked up the most live radio sessions with the legendary DJ with 24 sessions (13 as The Wedding Present, 11 as Cinerama) between 1986 and 2004, who championed the band throughout the time:
“The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!”
The Wedding Present (and Cinerama) were mainstays of the Festive Fifty throughout the late 1980s, through to Peel’s last in 2003- however, it took until the final list for Gedge’s songs to achieve a number 1 position- they had reached #2 on a few occasions.
“Well, I know one little lad who’s going to go to bed very happy tonight.”
The Wedding Present’s Peel Sessions have been collected into a fairly special, if a little vast, box set. It’s here.
I could waffle on for a while longer, going into minute details over lyric delivery, the ‘sense of place’ theory (although I’d rather keep that for Saint Etienne), but instead I’m going to stick a mixtape on.
Remember how I said I attempted to get Spotify for this blog? Well throw back your legs and pollute your britches with delight, because today’s mixtape is a Spotify playlist.
…And The Moment’s Gone. A Wedding Present mixtape.
(I found another photo from when I saw them in Bristol. Not sure why I didn’t use this one!)