The Wedding Present
, April 2nd, 2012 08:33
This year marks the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and in Blighty it could well be shaping up to be the year of the old dragon. So far we’ve seen creative rejuvenation and surprises from a bunch of artists, including Tindersticks, (the admittedly not so old) Graham Coxon and even Paul Weller, who made the most interesting record of a career that has only recently emerged from the safety of self-parody. Hats off and marks for effort too for David Gedge, who after all this time has managed to make his troupe sound relevant again.
The Wedding Present are not a band synonymous with muscularity. So it’s a fair indication of how far indie guitar music must have fallen when Valentina sounds so fibrous and energetic, especially when you consider the Weddoes have been at it for 36 years. Okay, so David Gedge might be the only surviving member from the classic George Best line-up of 1987 (and when I say muscular I’m hardly talking Jesus Lizard), but there’s a focus and a purpose on this record that’s worlds away from the trademark strumming of earlier incarnations.
Britpop and Madchester still seem to be a key influence on many young guitar bands, and given its subservience to the 60s, a third generation producing a facsimile of a facsimile feels evermore like ever diminishing returns. It’s perhaps for this reason that what came before these movements seems almost pure right now, and even refreshingly naive. Gedge’s simplicity with a tune reminds you why the band were so influential in the first place. When he sings, “You’ve opened doors for her and that’s good, in ways I never could,” on ‘Stop Thief’, you can hardly fail to notice the similarity with one Jarvis Cocker. You might ask who influenced who, and I’m afraid I can’t offer a definitive answer, but the Wedding Present were much bigger and more important in the 80s than history cares to remember.
Throughout Valentina, and especially on ‘End Credits’, the Wedding Present’s new streamlined and sinewy delivery certainly has something of The Fall to it. Intriguingly, The Wedding Presents’ contemporary Fallisms often resemble those of the feisty departed group Ikara Colt, while at other moments they occasionally come across like Art Brut. There’s even a noise outro (on ‘Back a Bit.. Stop’) to really confound, a sign that recording the record might have been liberatingly experimental. It should also be noted that this Wedding Present are not a reaction to - but are quite different to - the swooping soundscapes of Gedge’s other band Cinerama, but lyrically he still seems to be preoccupied with the same thing he’s always been preoccupied with. And that’s sex, or lack of it.
“You’re not the one for me although I just can’t seem to let you go,” he laments on ‘You’re Dead’. “You appall me... Okay, call me.”
The astringent Gedge maintains the delicious balance between withering wit and bitterness, and while human relations have always been his focus, it doesn’t feel like the mimsy, immature and phoned-in bleating of latter career Morrissey that’s so undignified and duplicitous, especially at his age. Gedge is like a weary lothario when he sings “you’re too pretty for me... and if I was a painter I’d just paint portraits of you...” on ‘Deer Caught in Headlights’ or “you’re way out of my league” on ‘Meet Cute’. It may also be a dark epiphany that neuroses do not necessarily cease and that low self-esteem and awkward, dysfunctional and plain fucked-up relationships are not exclusive to youth. The vagaries and the complexities of the human condition are just as acute when you’re 52 as they are when you’re 22, so it’s maybe comforting to know Gedge is putting an arm around us and telling us it might be alright... but then again, it might not.