The Wedding Present - Going, Going…

Posted by vibrations on 19-09-16

‘The Wedding Present: All the Songs Sound the Same,’ or so the t-shirt claimed back in the band’s heyday. With most of their tunes a breakneck rattle through David Gedge’s perpetual haplessness with the opposite sex there was some truth in it. Here, however, on their ninth studio long player, Gedge and company yearn for something more- they’re not content to come up with ‘just another album’ but stray heavily in to ‘concept’ territory with twenty linked pieces detailing a road trip across the USA.

 

‘Going, Going…’ certainly marks a departure for the band. Since Gedge revived the name around a decade ago there’s been a series of solid releases but nothing that’s really stretched too far from the formula. Opening with four beguiling instrumentals signals a more adventurous approach. First off is ‘Kittery’ which establishes a sense of optimism and wonder with rolling cymbals and delicate strumming and plinking until it all goes somewhere weird. Even better are the sparsely melodic ‘Marblehead’ and the gorgeous ‘Sprague’. The former is based on slowly building female vocal refrain reminding me of the space and intricacy of Young Marble Giants while the cello led number that follows it is one of the most impossibly beautiful things I’ve heard all year.

 

The first non-instrumental, ‘Two Bridges,’ will reassure the long term fan that not everything’s changed and we return to indie jangle and relationship problems. Uncharacteristically, it’s Gedge who is doing the dumping – mithering about whether he should stay or go and take a leap into the unknown, a theme which echoes throughout the album. Making a stand, taking decisions, not settling for mundane routine and striking out for a change for the better seem to be the major concerns throughout and, before it all starts to sound a bit ‘life coachy,’ lyrically Gedge maintains his forensic deconstruction of the damage that people can do when they fall in or out of love with each other. Sometimes you don’t know where to look such as when the narrator harangues an ex about their shortcomings on the fantastically mean  ‘Bells’ and at others, such as the closing track ‘Santa Monica’ you can just swoon at the melancholy of it all.

 

It’s true that the vocal tracks tend, for the most part, to stick to what The Wedding Present do best but they have enough tweaks and surprises to keep things interesting. Squalls of feedback, a sublimely heavy bass sound and delicate touches of piano and strings all contribute to a sense that they haven’t been this satisfying a proposition since their early nineties masterpiece ‘Seamonsters’. Going, Going…’ rescues the band from the nostalgia anniversary circuit and it would a wise move for people to take the chance to dive in and rediscover them.

Alan Stewart