A sort of last band standing, the Wedding Present have not only defied the odds stacked against those groups originally lumped under the C86 tag, but they’ve continued to evolve their sound beyond the jangly indie rock of the makeshift genre tag. The Wedding Present of 2016 is a far different animal than that of, say, their George Best era. Never the most twee of the twee, the band has continued to explore and refine its muscular brand of blustery indie pop over the last several decades. Hooks and melodies abound, but they coexist with guitar chords being played to within an inch of their lives in terms of both ferocity and freneticism.
An ambitious project, Going, Going…, the band’s ninth studio album in some 30 plus years, functions as the audio component of their A/V work for which the group created 20 corresponding films. Somewhat brazenly, they open the album with four straight instrumentals (!) before David Gedge’s voice is even heard. Though impressive in their own right, the absence of their visual component begs the question as to whether one can exist truly independently of the other without the original intent being somewhat compromised. Fortunately, there’s enough going on in each to still be able to function as standalone performances not wholly dependent upon their visual counterparts. Nonetheless, Going, Going… could have used a bit of editing to tighten everything up into a more effective package.
That said, there’s no shortage of near-perfect moments here for those who like their indie pop on the heavy, noisier side. The thrashing-ly distorted sound established on their career-redefining Seamonsters continues its noisy evolutionary path towards noise pop perfection as massive walls of guitars reign supreme throughout. Nearly every track functions as a prolonged crescendo into explosive bombast, the point being to heighten the inherent emotionality within each, deploying the final push over the edge at just the right moment to achieve pure pop bliss.
“Two Bridges” sets the tone for the remainder of the album and could well serve as the album’s true starting point despite sitting in fifth position. Here, Gedge and company get back to doing what they do best with their tightly wound, highly melodic noise pop. Always a master tunesmith with both the Wedding Present and Cinerama, Gedge shows himself to have lost nary a step, somehow managing to wring new life out of a tried and true formula.
The piano break on “Broken Bow”, a track largely dominated by layered, raging guitars, affords but one of the album’s many unexpectedly beautiful, almost heartbreakingly delicate and fragile moments. Coming few and far between, each causes the listener’s breath to catch as the constant onslaught of distortion is radically stopped to reveal the beauty underneath. It is this approach that has allowed the Wedding Present to not only remain a vital link to the glory days of indie pop, but also a truly thrilling act in their own right, separate from any scenes or eras.
On “Rachel”, Gedge utilizes this formula to maximum impact, the final triumphant chorus a cloudburst that carriers the track well over the edge, his voice sounding as emotionally resonant as ever. Though ultimately a bit long—the 10-minute plus closer “Santa Monica” could have been trimmed and the four opening instrumentals cut for a more cohesive whole—Going, Going… nevertheless shows the Wedding Present to still be a viable, vital force some 30 years on. And compared with their peers, the majority of whom are being anthologized rather than releasing new material, that’s saying something.
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