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The Wedding Present
Going, Going... Jeremy Allen , September 29th, 2016 19:56

You nearly had us there, David. Four tracks in, and we were fearing the worst. The Wedding Present’s 20-track new album Going, Going... commences as a sombre and experimental affair, instrumental but for some chanted wordless melodies. It would certainly be a radical departure were David Gedge’s dulcet Yorkshire tones and whip-smart kitchen sink dramas set to music not to play a part on this, their ninth studio album. The Wedding Present are an arty bunch, sure, but they’re also a record-breaking singles band, having had as many top 40 hits in one year as The King himself (yes, I do mean Elvis).

Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with ‘Kittery’ and ‘Greenland’, ‘Marblehead’ or ‘Sprague’ - play them a few times and they reveal themselves each in their own way be quite haunting and beautiful - but it’s not what the Wedding Present do best. And so when ‘Two Bridges’ finally appears, and Gedge imparts the words, “Of course you'll scoff / but since your phone's switched off / I'm going to call and leave a message now...” there’s a palpable sense of relief. The post-rock stuff works, but the real strength comes from the lovelorn lothario Gedge himself, a kind of indie Ken Barlow, allowing us to eavesdrop on his tangled love life through all these years, where the ins and outs and the jiggery-pokery are still as labyrinthine and confusing as ever, despite him now being 56 years old. Where Morrissey becomes more and more a self parody, his teenage angst unbecoming for a man who’s seen the best side of 50, Gedge’s frailties and foibles are all too human. This emotional ping pong we call living doesn’t get any easier with all that extra experience. Try not to get depressed about it now.

John Peel once said “the boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the 'Rock 'n' Roll' era,” and he’s a writer of hits too, if not in the conventional sense. Thankfully once Going, Going... gets into its stride, he’s in biting form, and this incarnation of the Weddoes are so bruisingly tight that they might even give Mr. Agreeable nightmares. Standout tracks include ‘Bells’, an immediately catchy and melodic lament about the post-coital awkwardness of a fling that’s going nowhere (“I called you darling because I’d already forgotten your name), and the rumbling, intrepid third person story telling of ‘Birdsnest’ is also magnificent. ‘Secretary’ (“I only ever seem to get through to your secretary”) is a coruscating ode to relationship anxiety, where we all have a better idea of what’s going on than the tragically deluded narrator, and ‘Fifty-Six’ presumably explores the reality of being 56 (“the picture in my phone / reminds me I’m alone”). It’s Gedge being Gedge, though with added technology-related pathos.

‘Going, Going...’ is a little overlong, but it’s also bursting with some tremendous songs and a vitality that belies over 30 years in the game, admittedly with plenty of lineup changes and a longish interregnum from 1997 to 2004. Despite the unevenness, it’s a wonderful album on the whole, and a fine addition to the canon, and it’ll be treasured among fans yet more if - as the name implies - that’s all they’re getting.