Why are nickels larger than dimes? I can’t stop pondering.
—“Nickels And Dimes”
I don’t know about you, but me, I’m much given to crushes. And it doesn’t matter how smitten I am with my current obsession, a sudden, unexpected glimpse of a well-shaped ankle or a cute little retroussé nose will always turn my head and lead me helplessly astray. Only last week, for example, I started cheating on Placebo with the Dixie Chicks. And now I’m starting to wonder how I can lure them into a five way with Jenny Lewis.
(I would invite the Watson Twins, but that might get a little weird.)
So yes, I’m something of a butterfly, flitting from musical crush to crush, and back again. But I have known true love. I have enjoyed a handful of affairs that have spanned decades. And The Wedding Present has been one of my grandest passions ever since I first heard “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft”.
Sadly, Search For Paradise is not a new Weddoes album as such, but a collection of recent singles, b-sides, alternate acoustic versions and a clutch of promotional videos whose release is justified on the grounds that eleven of its tracks were unavailable in America previously. Here, clearly, “unavailable” is a word that means you can’t get it at Bestbuy, and a concept that ignores the magic of the interweb. So yes, it’s a let-down, but it’s certainly not the end of the world because it’s still The Wedding Present, and it’s still that timeless, unmistakable rhythmic pulse coupled with David Lewis Gedge’s eternally appealing stories of love, betrayal and yearning.
Is it sexist to say that I thought just boys were meant to behave in this way?
The first of three singles from last year’s Take Fountain, “Interstate 5” begins with a slightly distorted strumming that rises to a Cult-like rhythm that’s still inescapably The Wedding Present. “Dalliance” meets “She Sells Sanctuary” perhaps, it’s a song of epic texture and length, and the story of a one-night stand that leaves the singer feeling let down, used, and wanting more. “Bad Thing”, as befits a b-side, turns “Interstate 5” on its head. This time, it’s the singer who’s using and disappointing a drunken pickup. The third track from the “Interstate 5” single is also included on Search For Paradise, and “Snapshots” takes a less musically intense path to detail the singer’s memories of a lost love.
In its use of lush, non-six string instrumentation, “Snapshots” is close in feel to Gedge’s Cinerama period, which is appropriate because its subject seems to be a clear reference to the Take Fountain/Cinerama backstory. Almost a decade ago, David Gedge evolved The Wedding Present into a new band called Cinerama, a band that took a softer, more orchestral, and yes, more cinematic approach to pop music. In 2004, following his break-up with long-time girlfriend and Cinerama collaborator Sally Murrell, Gedge moved to Seattle with a new girlfriend, and found himself marking that watershed by retiring the Cinerama brand and returning to The Wedding Present.
Of course, the latter day Cinerama had given every impression of a slow reversion to The Wedding Present anyway, which suggests to these fanciful ears that the break-up with Sally was a long and painful process that found its expression in Gedge’s song-writing long before he boarded the plane from Ringway to Seatac. Certainly, the second single from Take Fountain, the superior “I’m From Further North Than You”, first saw light of day as “Edinburgh” on a 2003 Cinerama John Peel Session.
I think we’re the same in many ways
And I admit we had some memorable days
But just not very many
I just think that we both need more
And we can’t ignore
How unhappy we were
I’d been abandoned by her
And you needed a friend
—“I’m From Further North Than You”
The tale of a spiralling but ill-conceived infatuation encountered on the rebound, “I’m From Further North Than You” is a classic Wedding Present moment. Lyrically, emotionally, rhythmically, it could just as easily have featured on 1987’s George Best or 1991’s Seamonsters as 2005’s Take Fountain. There’s more pop splendour in these too brief three-and-a-half minutes, for example, than in the entirety of Ringleader Of The Tormentors. In fact, there’s more in just that single moment when the guitars chime just after the mention of “memorable days”, the drums calls for a pause and then David Gedge sings, “But just not very many”.
“I’m From Further North Than You” is so good that The Wedding Present released it twice. The first version on Search For Paradise is the original album track and single. The second is the vinyl-only single remix by German electro-pop band and Minty Fresh recording stars Klee, whose song “Erinner Dich” had previously been covered by Cinerama. It’s less a remix, in truth, than a loving and gentle re-invigoration; the instrumentation is simplified and (I think) Suzie Kerstgens adds a few vocals, but the effect is stunning.
One of the additional tracks from the CD single, “The Girl with the Curious Smile”, is a cowboy soundtrack washed with sweeping strings and beaten with insistent guitars. Meanwhile, “Kindling” and “Nickels and Dimes” (from the seven inch) both dally with old flames become friends.
Talking of which, the third single from Take Fountain was “Ringway to Seatac”, a guitar-driven tale of a flight from Manchester’s Ringway airport to Seattle-Tacoma. In the world this song depicts, the singer’s ex has given him a lift to the terminal and he’s forced to confess that, “Watching you walk back to your car was the lowest point of my life so far”.
Let’s face it, no-one does love, break-ups and hurt like David Gedge. His guitar has always worn his heart on its sleeve. And the acoustic versions of the three singles that close Search For Paradise underline just why his bands have always been important in my life. Stripped of all the guitars and studio cleverness, his songwriting is still exceptional. For all their many charms, Cinerama were a little too sickly sweet for my palate. But as “Take Fountain” established and “Search For Paradise” reaffirms, The Wedding Present is, was, and always will be precisely where it’s at. In my life, I’ve loved them more.