With all the hullaballoo that comes with everyone’s favourite Indie band reforming to peddle their long forgotten seminal album about the place to keep the Taxman happy, it’s easy for the media to ignore the small group of bands who started out in the 1980s and in one way or another have just kept on going ever since. Some of them have even had the audacity to remain creative, push boundaries, reinvent themselves, and even inject youth into the band.
One such group is The Wedding Present, or “The Semi-Legendary Wedding Present” as main man David Gedge (DLG) introduces them these days, tongue in cheek. As well as joining in the feeding fenzy of full album concerts along with their peers, The Wedding Present have continued to experiment in the studio with the likes of Steve Albini and Andy Scheps and then to take the results on the road as an integral part of their set lists. Eventually some of these songs, tried and tested, will appear on an album.
The latest offering by The Wedding Present (TWP) is Valentina, which was launched at SxSW in Austin, Texas earlier this month. Funded in part by a buy-in by the fans under the banner of Club8, the album is the third since DLG morphed his outfit back into The Wedding Present from Cinerama. It builds on the song writing parnership that emerged on EL Rey in 2008, between Gedge and multi-instrumentalist Graeme Ramsay (GR), sometime drummer and guitarist with the band.
I want to review it but I love the songs already. I can’t do it. I am too biased so I’ll be avoiding any glowing hyperbole or by the same token any NME style looking-down-the-nose-type coverage trying to redress the balance, by not reviewing it! But this did get me thinking about representing a true fan’s point of view and how they are often overlooked by the media. Then an opportunity to try this out presented itself on the band’s web site recently .
So here is an off-the-cuff review that appeared on the Scopitones fan forum, written by Andy Buckley (Buckers to his mates and fellow forumites).
“I’ve not reviewed an album (or music) before; I used to just either like a riff / song / album or artist and play it until I got bored, or skip it if I didn’t. But since I’ve been on this forum it’s made me think a bit more about why I do or don’t like songs, TWP and Cinerama ones in particular.
So after 20+ listens of Valentina, here’s my thoughts. Overall, I agree with a previous post saying this is a fans’ album; made by fans for the fans, an homage to the material that went before it (including Cinerama). The musical references, hooks, chord progressions, the interruptive choruses/middle 8’s/outros/intros and bizarre sounds – they all have DNA in the back catalogue.
But the genius of DLG (and on this album, GR who I think deserves a lot of credit and it’s a shame I won’t be watching him play it live); no, the genius here is to take those references and make an album which sounds new, fresh but familiar and unmistakeably TWP.
The first half of Gedge’s genius has been his ability to take 2 guitars, a bass and somehow through the noise make you feel emotion and subtlety that make you listen to songs again and again and not get bored. The sound is also evolving; I love the molten gold dripping of the guitars on the outro to You’re Dead, end of Mystery Date (and other places too), one thing I liked about El Rey (trouble with men).
The second part of the genius is to somehow deliver fresh sounding lyrics and stories within the same subject matter. I’m painfully aware that these 2 statements offer no new insight to this forum but in Valentina, the former is clearly in rude health, whilst the latter sometime has a fail.
The musical side seems to be taking care of itself (as is the case with genius, it appears effortless) but on occasion I think DLG is trying too hard to make his lyrics contemporary and distinctive from what has passed before. Sometimes he uses an unusual word and it works brilliantly ‘irrelevance’ in Unthinking, other times it cringes e.g. ‘epiphany’ in Back a bit… Stop. Sometimes it’s bigger phrases which jar, e.g. ‘If I was a painter’ verse in Deer, the whole of ‘You’re Dead’, putting numbers in phones (DDR) etc. I don’t think he needs to work the lyrics as hard to make me interested.
The mix also makes the album sound great and distinctive from previous work — sounds like a rock album in the way its clean, tight and punchy e.g. ACDC. I also love the drums and 110% effort Charlie puts in — reminds me of Seamonsters era in this regard. Pepe’s bass is also fantastic throughout and a major improvement IMO. I love the bit on End Credits where she joins the guitar; it’s like a scene from Mad Max where the lead vehicle (drums) are joined by motorbikes and hotrods (guitars) and then the bass thumps right in like a big fcuk off juggernaut. Love it, love it, love it.
All in all, I’m loving the whole album. My fave tracks on the first 10 listens came from the second half (DDR, Deer, 524 Fidelio, End Credits) but Meet Cute and Stop Thief are getting more of my attention as time goes on. I think You’re Dead and You Jane are the weakest tracks on the album, and I would not listen to them as single tracks now, but within the album as a whole I can live with and enjoy them.”
Brilliant! What more do we need to know?
The Wedding Present (David Gedge, Charles Layton, Pepe Le Moko and Patrick Alexander), are currently touring songs from Valentina along with the whole of their classic Seamonsters album in North America, The Far East and Australia, returning to the UK for festival dates including DLG’s annual “At The Edge…” events, and a yet to be announced UK and European tour later in the year.
Valentina is available on the Scopitones label on CD, Vinyl (if you can get it), and download from the usual outlets.
Review – Andy Buckley
Padding – Ian Gelling
Photo of The Wedding Present at SxSW 2012 — Stephanie Colledge
The Wedding Present – http://www.scopitones.co.uk