Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Listening: The Wedding Present

I tried not to make this a strictly musical blog because I'm not enough of an authority to confine myself to a single subject. In fact, I tried not to write about it at all for a while, but unfortunately it dominates my thought processes so much I don't have a lot else to say that Laura can't say better. So here goes:
Probably the new record I've listened to most of late is Take Fountain by indie legends
The Wedding Present. Of course, they're noted for their deeply loyal and longstanding fanbase, but I can't claim to be among them. Although I bought
Mini in 1996, mainly because I liked all the car-related song titles, I really got into the works of David Gedge through his other band, Cinerama (thanks Laura). And until a few minutes ago I felt like the only person in the world who'd never heard their supposedly most famous single, 'Kennedy'.
After splitting from his partner (in Cinerama as well his personal life), Gedge reverted to using the old band name and recorded a Peel Session, broadcast in September 2004. Sadly this proved to be their last for obvious reasons (you can view their performance at the tribute night on the
BBC site ) but I heard the lead single 'Interstate 5' and was so captivated by it that I even went to the effort of ordering it off the net. It was a staggering piece of work, an epic six minutes in length but tense all the way through, Gedge picking through the detritus of a failed relationship with palpable (and possibly not simulated) hurt, the pill of his misery sugared only by the harmonies of (female) bassist Terry de Castro. On paper it's not necessarily the sort of thing I like but it's so powerful I couldn't help loving it; just as well, because the version on the album is even longer, with an extended spaghetti-western outro, and the opening title 'On Ramp' is effectively two minutes of build-up to it [the US version omits this in favour of two CD-ROM tracks].
The remainder of the album probably couldn't retain that level of sonic intensity and wisely doesn't try. What it does, though, is reveal some of Gedge's most personal songwriting - not that girlfriend trouble is new territory for him, of course, but there's a clever narrative arc from this point onwards as our protagonist tries to put his life back together, meets someone on the rebound (on 'I'm From Further North Than You', their 18th hit single to date), moves to America to start a new life, attempts further relationships but has to deal with his own emotions. Look away now if you don't want to know the ending, but the final two songs show him finally finding new love, inspiring some superbly fumbling romanticism (always better than the cliched kind): "It's as if you've just appeared out of one of my dreams - I don't care if that sounds weird" as he puts it on 'Queen Anne'. Perhaps the second-best track of all is 'Mars Sparkles Down On Me', which details our man's meeting with his ex's new partner - the central lyric "How can I just shake his hand when it's been all over you" not only sums up the song but also recalls a line in seminal early TWP single 'My Favourite Dress'.
With all this in mind, it was probably only fair of Gedge to make a point of playing this to Murrell before it came out. The music, meanwhile, is a development of the later Cinerama records, combining the delicate chamber-pop arrangements of their first works with traces of the harsh attack of vintage Wedding Present.

I've since bought the album that's usually cited as the band's masterpiece, Saturnalia and though I agree that it's a fine slice of noise (and very useful when your neighbours start playing Sade too loud) I prefer Take Fountain. I recommend it to any fans of either band who haven't already snapped it up, and if you're a novice like I am, then why not start here?
The disc is available at
amazon.co.uk and at hmv.co.uk or at amazon.com , where one customer has helpfully reviewed it in Spanish. I have no personal connection with these retailers except that I've used them myself, possibly a little too often.

You're not going to hear much of this on the radio, alas, but that's another rant altogether. I wouldn't have heard this without the Internet, so I've assembled a couple of links:
Their American record company made them set up a
blog, where you can hear excerpts.
You can see streamed videos for the singles and a live film of 'Perfect Blue' (all taken from the DVD single) at
the website of the German magazine Spex.
And if you want a real mine of Gedge info, head for www.somethingandnothing.net.

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