Through their by now pretty long career, The Wedding Present has been interesting to follow. Formed in Leeds in 1985 the band has more or less been the vehicle for singer/guitarist/songwriter David Gedge, and has gone through several incarnations with somewhat different styles. The beginning as indie-wonders with songs propelled by the frantic guitar work of Gedge as well as his idiosyncratic singing has given way to a more reflective and melodic side in later years. I really loved the early years of indie-pop classics lyrically covering the three L´s – love, lust and loss. Excellent example below.
In 1992 the band decided to release a 7″-single every month during a whole year, eventually resulting in 12 consecutive top 30 singles. As a way to economize the A-sides were all original compositions while the B-sides were covers, interestingly chosen. All the songs were later collected on the CD-version “Hit Parade”. While technically being a CD-double, I´m going to treat it as a regular album.
It all begins with the addictive melody of “Blue Eyes”, beautifully understated and followed by the Go-Betweens classic “Cattle and cane” in a version true to the original. “Go-go dancer” shows the propulsive side of the band with a dirty, feedback-filled ending. The B-side cover is Neil Young´s “Don´t cry no tears”, from the “Zuma”-album, soundwise tapping into the link between Young and Dinosaur Jr.
“Three” slows things down with some really nice guitar-playing accompanying Gedge´s pledge for the merits of a threesome. The flip-side goes deep into pop-land with Altered Images´ “Think that it might”, which in the Weddoes version becomes heavier and more melancholic.
“Silver shorts” sees the protagonist agonising about a past relationship while in bed with the subject of the next one. This song is just flowing, with nice dynamics and a finish of great rhythm guitar. “Falling” by Julee Cruise (known from legendary TV-series “Twin Peaks”) is done in an atmospheric version considerably harder than the original.
“Come play with me” adds drama, with break-up lyrics set to music both intense and melodically intricate . Monkees cover “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is done with great love and threatens to overshadow the rather too cheery original. “California” is classic Wedding Present with an undulating melody driven by accoustic guitars, followed by “Let´s make some plans” by Scottish C86-indie band Close Lobsters in a much dirtier version, while still keeping the lightness of the original.
The bass-driven “Flying saucer” is yet one of Gedge´s ecstatic melodies ending in a whirl of guitar turbulence. “Rocket”, taken from British glam rockers Mud, is a simple Elvis-type stomper not that far from the original, which is probably exactly what the band wanted.
“Boing!” doesn´t really do anything that the other songs hasn´t already done, and is offset by the sheer craziness of The Wedding Present doing a cover of “Theme from Shaft” – something that they do surprisingly well. A harder version of early Orange Juice could have sounded like this. “Loveslave” goes all out with the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic and Steve Albini guitars. This outburst is followed by one of the most bizarre covers ever, of Bowie´s “Chant of the ever circling skeletal family”. If you´re aiming for a Bowie cover, this is hardly what you would expect. “Sticky” is the sound of a relationship that´s soured enough to make even the sight of the former lover sickening. Malcolm McLaren-created band Bow Wow Wow was a pretty polarizing experience in their time and I can´t say that I´ve ever liked their hit “Go wild in the country”. It being done by the Weddoes doesn´t really change that much. “The Queen of outer space” namechecks the old Zsa Zsa Gabor Movie from the fifties, and has a certain degree of nonsensical charm that carries on into the B-side cover of Barry Gray´s theme for British 70´s sci-fi TV-series “UFO”.
For the last single of “Hit Parade” we´ve reached December which usually means Christmas songs, of which there are not that many good ones. “No Christmas” chugs along without making too much waves, and the album ends on a cheesy note with the Elton John cover “Step into Christmas”.
In many ways this collection of songs is a brilliant example of the genius of The Wedding Present. Despite sharing a similar format and sound, there´s all kinds of subtleties buried in both the lyrics and the songwriting here. David Gedge has through the years been very consistent in the exploration of his both limited and boundless themes. I think many of us would agree – apart from love, what is there that really means anything?