Reviews

The Wedding Present: 14 April 2010 - Toronto

Ian Mathers

I was nearly as eager to find out what hearing a beloved album, Bizarro, in its entirety would be like, as I was just to see the band again.

The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present

City: Toronto
Venue: The Horseshoe Tavern
Date: 2010-04-14

Outside of his songs, David Gedge doesn't seem to be much for nostalgia or sentimentality (his strict no requests, no encores policy and occasionally foreboding stage presence both speak of a guy who's been doing this touring thing for too long to want to put up with any crap). But this tour he and the rest of the current Wedding Present lineup (firing on all cylinders just as effectively as the last time they came to Toronto) were performing all of second album Bizarro in its entirety. It's not the sort of thing you'd necessarily expect Gedge to do, and having never attended any sort of Don't Look Back-styled concert before I was nearly as eager to find out what hearing a beloved album in full and in order would be like, and how the Wedding Present would approach the task, as I was just to see the band again.

The sheer number of drunk, raucous middle-aged gentlemen in the audience suggested I wasn't the only one keen to return to the halcyon days of 1989. I would have been eight at the time, but much of the crowd near the front of the Horseshoe gave the unavoidable impression that this was an evening for people to recapture their youth, minus the alcohol tolerance of their salad days. If the band wasn't quite as overtly friendly and ingratiating as last time, it was hard to blame them; when a shirtless man is swinging his shirt in a circle above his head in one hand and trying to hand you the dregs of his beer with the other while you're playing, you don't necessarily want to encourage him.

A little sloppiness aside, which the rest of the crowd took with good grace, the overenthusiastic didn't put much of a damper on the night (except for the guy directly behind me for the first half of the night, who howled every thirty seconds or so without pause or deviation loudly enough that even his equally-trashed buddy was asking him to shut up). The band begun with a brief set mixing new, recent, and even non-Bizarro older material to great effect; everyone was justifiably enthused for "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft" and "Corduroy", but new songs "I Wake Up Screaming" and "Deer Caught in Headlights" were just as effective.

But it wasn't until a cavalcade of pre-recorded John Peel called out the band's name and they launched into a fierce rendition of "Brassneck" that the crowd really went nuts. If one of the glories of hearing a band play a full album, especially one that celebrated its 20th anniversary already, is anticipating what's to come, it's equally exciting to have the live performance transform your understanding of the songs and the album they form. This live version of Bizarro was flawless, and while I already knew I especially loved "Kennedy" and "Bewitched", the blistering versions of "Crushed" and "Granadaland" were revelatory.

But the real highlight, and what I had basically been waiting to hear since they announced the tour, was the penultimate "Take Me!" Not only is it a sterling example of a relatively innocent Weddoes song - full of longing, sure, but the only real problem here is that Gedge's narrator is enough of a wuss that he's reduced to silently pleading "Oh please just put that down and take me / I'm yours." Other than that it's basically business as usual; the band thrumming like a jet engine under Gedge's fierce singing. The whole thing wraps up in about two and a half minutes. And yet it's maybe the most audacious thing the Wedding Present has ever done (yes, even more so than the album of Ukrainian folk songs), because the song is actually over nine minutes long. What happens after Gedge stops singing? Well, the band just keeps going.

It's the same turbocharged, almost brutal jangle that's the hallmark of the early years of the Wedding Present, but it goes on, and on, and on. While it might get marginally faster or longer as it goes, it’s basically the same thing they were doing before. It's like the platonic ideal of all of the band's cathartic instrumental surges, like a friendlier version of the "holocaust section" of My Bloody Valentine's "You Made Me Realize”. Gedge had to swap guitars twice thanks to broken strings, and it might just be the apotheosis of Gedge's eternal struggle to just get across the intensity of the feelings he sings about. As good as the conventional first part of "Take Me!" is, it wouldn't be half as good as the seemingly endless, exhausting, riveting coda, and at times it can feel like those seven minutes express perfectly every frustrated ounce of lust, hurt, pride, longing, and regret that courses through the Wedding Present's music.

The live version didn't disappoint. They didn't fool around with it, or any of the Bizarro material. Everything was played with faithful fire and verve. Just as on record, all that could follow up the mammoth, cathartic "Take Me!" is the brief, gentle "Be Honest", and it was pretty much all the crowd had energy left to hear. Just as always there were no encores, and there wasn't a need for any. Like every other report I've read of this tour, the overwhelming impression left in the heads of the crowd as we wandered into the night was just "Wow, I really hope they do this for Seamonsters next year."

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image