The Wedding Present-Singles 1989-1991
· PART 2
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|Emerging in the wake of the Smiths' demise as the U.K.'s most successful indie pop band during the late '80s, the Wedding Present were founded in Leeds, England, in 1985. Formed from the ashes of the short-lived Lost Pandas, the Weddoes (as they were affectionately dubbed by fans) were essentially the vehicle of singer/songwriter David Gedge, the only constant member throughout the group's tumultuous history. Initially rounded out by guitarist Peter Solowka, bassist Keith Gregory, and drummer Shaun Charman, the fledgling band quickly won a loyal following among university students, as well as the patronage of influential DJ John Peel, for whom they cut their first radio session in February 1986.|
Named in honor of the popular soccer star, George Best, the Wedding Present's remarkable debut LP, appeared on their own Reception label in 1987. The group became the darlings of the British press overnight, winning acclaim for their distinct guitar pop frenzy as well as Gedge's idiosyncratic vocal style and wittily lovelorn, conversation-like lyrics. After the album established a foothold on the U.K. indie charts, Tommy -- a hastily compiled overview of early singles, covers, and radio broadcasts -- followed in 1988.
The Wedding Present's next effort came completely out of left field: titled Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peel, the collection brought together Peel session dates with a sampler of traditional Ukrainian folk tunes inspired by Solowka's father. Additionally, it marked the recording debut of new drummer Simon Smith, recruited after Charman exited to form the Popguns. After reaching the Top 40 with the primal single "Kennedy," the Weddoes returned in 1989 with Bizarro, a more conventional effort highlighted by the single "Brassneck," produced by Steve Albini. The aggressive 1991 release Seamonsters returned Albini to the producer's seat and marked the departure of Solowka, who continued to explore his roots in the Ukrainians; guitarist Paul Dorrington was tapped as his replacement.
Instead of recording a new studio LP, the Wedding Present spent the entirety of 1992 issuing a single on the first Monday of each month. Later compiled as the two-volume Hit Parade set, the singles featured original material on their A-sides and cover songs on the flip sides, among them interpretations of the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday," Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears," Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft," and Julee Cruise's "Falling" (better known as the theme to Twin Peaks).
After the departure of Gregory (to found Cha Cha Cohen) left Gedge the group's last original member, the Weddoes resurfaced with new bassist Darren Belk for 1994's Watusi, a nod toward the Amer-indie love-rock scene produced by Olympia, WA-based producer Steve Fisk, complete with vocal assistance from Beat Happening's Heather Lewis. Following a rather uneventful 1995, the group returned in 1996 with a flurry of new material; first up was the auto-obsessed Mini EP, later reissued with bonus tracks as Mini Plus. The full-length Saturnalia appeared at the end of the year, followed early in 1997 by the single "Montreal." Gedge then put the band on hold, formed Cinerama (a group that began to sound increasingly Weddoes-like) and came back to release Take Fountain in early 2005.
|"The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock 'n' Roll era. You may dispute this, but I'm right and you're wrong!" John Peel. |
The Wedding Present have had seventeen UK Top 40 hit singles. not bad for a band who have stubbornly refused to play the record industry's game since their inception. That was back in 1985 when David Lewis Gedge boarded a National Express coach in London with a handful of dreams and a pocket full of ideas. Oh, and about 500 records packed into a pair of his mother's suitcases. In this fashion, the single GO OUT AND GET 'EM BOY! was collected from the pressing plant, delivered to the distribution company, and The Wedding Present was born. That pioneering spirit has been at the core of the band's philosophy ever since. From GEORGE BEST "an unmitigated delight" [NME] the first full length release on their own Reception Records onwards, the band have charted an appealing, if often eccentric course of their very own.
With their independent releases, The Wedding Present acquired a reputation for bittersweet, breathtakingly real love songs immersed in whirlwind guitars, so it was quite extraordinary that UKRAINSKI VISTUPI V JOHNA PEELA, with the band exploring traditional Eastern European folk music, should be their major label debut on RCA. "(They) carry off what is basically a bold experiment with verve" [NME]. However, this was soon followed by the more traditionally incendiary BIZARRO, "simply unbeatable" [Melody Maker] which featured their first hit single KENNEDY. Sounds Magazine said: "it's their major label debut, but it's a transition they've mastered beautifully".
The next step, made with characteristically twisted Wedding Present logic, was to enlist noise-mongering [and relatively unknown, at that time] sound engineer Steve Albini's aid, at a time when everyone else was releasing dance mixes. The resulting SEAMONSTERS, recorded in the snowy wilds of Minnesota in just 11 days, suggested a more thoughtful Wedding Present. The Guardian newspaper noted that "Albini has given The Wedding Present considerable weight, with Gedge's voice trickling between banks of scowling guitars". Indeed, the singing ranged from sensual whispering to feverish screams, as the singer investigated more challenging subjects.
1992 brought another intriguing idea. By the end of December the group had released twelve records, one in each month, equalled Elvis Presley's 35 year old record for "most hits in one year", rekindled everyone's interest in that ultimate pop format, the 7" single, and led the NME to describe the band as "casually revolutionary and underhandedly unique". A gang of impressive names, including Ian Broudie from The Lightning Seeds and legendary Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller collaborated on the industry-challenging project, ultimately to be compiled on the two HIT PARADE albums and awarded "record of the week" by Tony Parsons in The Daily Telegraph.
WATUSI, produced by Steve Fisk (a prime mover in the celebrated avant-garde scene of Seattle, Washington) then whisked the band off into yet another new area with its trademark lo-fi pop, 3-part a capella harmonies and Waikiki-ready surf strains. This "strong, multifaceted album" [Select], sprinkled with 60s and 70s pastiches, was described by critics as their most varied and dynamic to date. "Watusi is (their) "White Album", a late period re-assessment of their sound that finds them doing what they do best" [Melody Maker].
In 1995, just before they signed to Cooking Vinyl [Britain's largest independent label] the band released yet another 7" single, Sucker, and completed a British tour with two drummers. Although the record sold several thousand copies and reached No.3 in The Festive 50 (veteran BBC DJ John Peel's end of year listeners' poll) you won't see it in any other charts, because, typically, it was only available at the concerts or by mail order.
The band returned to a more traditional form of record distribution with the car themed MINI - "a gem of a record" [Melody Maker] in which Gedge cloaked his tales love, lust and infidelity with automobile iconography in what can only be described as a concept album! To commemorate this release, the band played at the BBC's Sound City Event, which was held that year in Leeds, the group's home town. During the concert, the winner of a "Mini Prize Draw" was announced, and a lucky Wedding Present fan became the owner of a real life classic Austin Mini motorcar provided (and delivered!) by the band.
For the next full length LP, the group decided to apply a decade's worth of studio experience and produce the recording themselves. Thus, the Top 40 album SATURNALIA was released by Cooking Vinyl to a flurry of critical approval. The NME exclaimed that "David Gedge has. just written one of the best pop albums of the year" while The Melody Maker noted that in the new recordings, which were completed in the London studios belonging to The Cocteau Twins, you could "hear an experimentalism that would send half of New York back to the lab".
It was at this point, in 1997, that Gedge called a temporary halt to The Wedding Present and started work on a solo project that would eventually see the light of day under the banner CINERAMA. A fittingly titled outfit, Cinerama indulged Gedge's love of film music from John Barry to Blaxploitation via Ennio Morricone, as well as the classic songwriting of Bacharach / David. Cinerama actually started life as a duo that Gedge shared with his then girlfriend Sally Murrell together with a shifting line-up of collaborators. 1998's VA VA VOOM "turbo-driven melodies and bittersweet vignettes taking in everything from John Barry to the Zombies" [The Times] featured The Church's Marty Wilson-Piper and Emma Pollock of The Delgados. Then, in 1999, Gedge rescued the rhythm section of the disbanded Goya Dress (Terry de Castro and Simon Pearson) and Wedding Present guitarist Simon Cleave. Since 2000 the line-up has remained relatively steady, apart from Finnish drummer Kari Paavola replacing Pearson and Murrell's retirement from live performance. Gedge, Cleave, de Castro and Paavola became The Wedding Present in 2004.
Surely on pace to rival the abundant shelf filling of The Wedding Present, Cinerama released a clutch of singles in support of their debut LP, as well as a number prior to 2000's Steve Albini-recorded DISCO VOLANTE "dangerously, seductively sweet" [Melody Maker]. Notable were the heart-rending SUPERMAN (complete with alternative Spanish take) and the six and a half minute epic HEALTH AND EFFICIENCY (also available in French!) which came backed with a lilting version of the classic Bond theme: "Diamonds Are Forever".
The third Cinerama studio album, TORINO (released in 2002), was an altogether darker and more substantial record than the first two, with Gedge returning to a much more guitarry sound. "Cinerama are finally escaping the shadow of Gedge's illustrious indie-legend past. Torino is a giant beast of adulterous lyrical fantasies, cult soundtrack flourishes and the screams of Albini-engineered guitars" [Uncut].
· PART 2
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