Week 66

cover

The Wedding Present

'Interstate 5' single

Scopitones

 

Tuesday 26th October, 2004.

Ask any self respecting indie-kid what the big come back event of this year was and they’re likely to reply with one word, ‘Morrissey’. The more enlightened of them may suggest ‘The Pixies’. But with this record those suddenly become yesterday’s news. In the seven years from 1997 that Morrissey took to get it together with ‘You Are The Quarry’ David Lewis Gedge disbanded The Wedding Present, formed Cinerama, wrote, recorded and released three studio albums, two collections of singles and b-sides, two more Peel Session compilation albums, and to top it all two Live albums. And now he has recorded a record that had strayed back over the line into Wedding Present territory, and thus reassumed the name ‘The Wedding Present’. If you look up ‘prolific’ in the dictionary it’ll just have three letters for the definition, ‘D.L.G.’

Cinerama had principally been a project with Gedge’s long term girlfriend, Sally Murrell, and with the demise in their relationship during 2002 he had by his own admission ‘started writing songs that were much darker, and clearly influenced by the despair he felt over the split’. Recording the new material took place in Seattle and Chicago with Steve Fisk at the production helm. He had previously worked with the band on the 1994 album ‘Watusi’ and was perhaps regarded by fans as injecting a softer sound into the equation. However, with the new batch of songs I can safely say that The Wedding Present have not been watered down in any way.

The ‘Interstate 5’ single precedes a long player, ‘Take Fountain’, currently slated for a release during February 2005, and during the recording of which it became apparent that ‘this was a Wedding Present record, not a Cinerama record’ – thus the name change.

The title track is a fans favourite since airings on K.E.X.P. (Seattle) and John Peel’s radio shows and had an immediate impact on their spring tour this year. It is a tale of...

...at this point, a message has just arrived in my email, it tells me that John Peel is dead. I went to the B.B.C. site and found confirmation, and immediately feelings of disbelief are battling with feelings of sadness. The man who championed so many bands, and so much brilliant music; the man who single handedly lead to my teenage years being spent with my finger hovering above the ‘record’ button on my stereo, and the man who all those years ago introduced me to David Gedge and The Wedding Present, to The Smiths, to The Undertones, to The Fall and to a thousand other bands that now litter my record collection, is gone. I never knew the man, but he played a vital role in my life. Goodbye John, goodbye.

 

Friday 29th October, 2004.

I stopped writing at that point, to be honest, it felt like there were more important things to think about than some rock and roll tunes. After a few days however I have decided to continue where I left off, there are couple of reasons for this, firstly, I owe it to the band to complete the review that I promised, and so I shall; and secondly, and certainly more importantly, the sense of loss I felt upon hearing the news of Johns death brought home to me just how much of an influence he had on my life – simply by him recognising himself just how important these tunes, these songs, these three minute slices of life are. How many times have you found yourself leaping around the room to a tune wondering how the writer managed to be so in tune with how you were feeling? How many times have you sat in a room, on your own, in floods of tears, with a broken heart, or crucified with the pain of loss listening to a record and wondering just how they managed to capture just how you were feeling? How many times have you been comforted by these songs?

You don’t need to answer that, but I hope it makes you understand why I am continuing with this review. I am sure it is what John would have wanted us to do. Music was so important in his life, he showed us what it meant to love music, he taught us so much, and now we must implement what we learned during all those late night lessons.

So yeah, here it is, Interstate 5, fans of Cinerama and The Wedding Present will be familiar with the track, as I have said, from radio sessions and from last spring’s tour. This version may not be as raw as some of those radio session versions – but that is the beauty of those sessions, limited time to get what you can down on tape always means that the finished product is never going to be a highly polished artefact. But saying that, it is not over produced, and it is certainly not squeaky clean. The song itself is a brutal tale of a woman who wants a one night stand and a man who wants more, and the ragged, driving guitars provide a perfect soundtrack to the self loathing and desolation that he feels in the aftermath of it all. The lack of any obviously melodious hook line suits the mood of the song perfectly, and as a result the song is more of a slow grower than an instant hit. It's not a toe-tapper, and it won't have the casual listener humming the tune on the tube, it's a dirty, earthy, grinding, wrenching epic, it's a cry from the darkness ("I needed to stay near, in case you suddenly remembered that I'm still alive..."), it's an admission of heartbreak ("Well, I'll remember how your eyes sparkled in the moonlight..."). In simple terms, it's classic Gedge, unfettered, unwavered, unadulterated.

I had initially thought that songs such as ‘Edinburgh’ (now seemingly re-named 'I'm From Further North Than You' - but will continue to be referred to as 'Edinburgh' as an illustration of the writers stubborn nature) and ‘Ringway to SeaTac’ from those recent sessions would have been more obvious choices for singles – but saying that, I do like being proved wrong, and over the week or so that I have been listening to this record I have indeed grown to love it. I will however recommend, nay insist, that you play it fucking loud, the song deserves it.

Second track, ‘Bad Things’ is reminiscent of ‘Seamonsters’ era Wedding Present. The scuzzy guitars are right out of Albini’s ‘How to be a good Engineer Handbook’, the only difference being that the vocals are much higher in the mix, and therefore the song is a little more accessible than is predecessors. The guitar sound is that 'smooth distorted sound, without the frequencies interfering and overloading' that David was so ardently pursuing on 'George Best' (much to Chris Allisons chagrin I believe), and the vocals are a subtle battle from male and female perspectives. It's a driven, cascading salvo of guitar noise, it's a six string M4 pile up, it's bloody great. I do feel however that knowing how The Wedding Present operate in the live setting this song will take on a new lease of life from the stage. Bring on the Gedge wall of sound.

Final track, ‘Snapshots’ is stunningly gorgeous. It is perhaps the song that bridges the gap between Cinerama and The Wedding Present. It's in the same mould as 'And When She Was Bad', or 'Health and Efficiency' with the soft/loud/soft/loud arrangement. The opening delicate arpeggios and lush backing vocals hint at Cinerama, whilst the quasi-anthemic chorus points towards the bands new direction before settling back into the warm arms of the next verse. ‘Snapshots’ is my initial favourite of the three tracks on offer here - not surprising as Gedge has a reputation for writing brilliant b-sides instead of cluttering up multiple version cd singles with re-mixes and second rate songs. I don’t know why I favour this track, it just sort of hit me from the start, and listening to it now, in the light of what has happened since I started writing this piece, the words take on a whole new significance, and to be honest, it’s a battle to keep my emotions in check...

“The things you said, the friend you became, to me you’ll always stay exactly the same...and that’s beautiful forever.

How strange to think you’ll never, have to worry about growing old, counting wrinkles and the winter cold”

 

It’s not my record, and maybe I have no right to do this, but I’m going to say that this one is for John, he would have loved it.

 

Johnny Mac
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