Post-Smiths, pre-Britpop band the Wedding Present dust off “oldies” for this impressive, satisfying guitar-saturated record, a record you’d be a complete fool to not enjoy from start to finish, top to bottom.
What was once old is new again, or so it has appeared in recent years. Groups made popular in the ‘80s couldn’t get arrested in the ‘90s, but now many of those bands have returned to the spotlight. And while they might not be as popular as they would like to be, British group the Wedding Present are back. Well, they never really left except for a period in which lead singer David Lewis Gedge went off on his own project, Cinerama, in the late ‘90s. Nonetheless, this collection of songs is a great representation of the band at its best and an equally stellar introduction to those who never experienced them the first go around.
Culled from a far-reaching discography and a genre-bending, adventurous creative streak throughout, the Wedding Present’s live album, taken from a November 2005 performance at London’s famed Shepherd’s Bush Empire, opens with a smart, Kinks-ian “Corduroy” from 1991’s Seamonsters that has plenty of buzzsaw guitar and lots of moxie. And this is the high quality one will have to thankfully endure throughout, whether on a number like “Click Click” that begins the joyous homestretch of this 21-song salute. The songs jump off the album and grab the listener by the throat, especially the ensuing short but terribly sweet “Sucker”, fleshed out by drummer Simon Pearson’s concluding fills.
Although a live album, the crowd interaction is at a minimum here, with no banter early on and just one great effort after another with the slightly tamer “Blue Eyes” that explodes during the bridge. But the set takes a look back at their early influences as “Always the Quiet One” harks back to the days of a certain pairing of Morrissey and Johnny Marr crafting melodic but maudlin material. The same could be said of the jangle-filled “Apres Ski” that brings to mind Echo & the Bunnymen.
For the most part, though, Gedge and crew (an ever-changing one since the early days), dish out grin-inducing nuggets like “Don’t Talk, Just Kiss” that have lost none of their luster despite Gedge shifting gears here from mid-tempo to a high-octane, punk-meets-rockabilly romp. It’s as if age has not played a part in the songs sounding outdated or passé. Hell, most of them come off as relevant now, or even more so than when they were first released, judging by how well “A Million Miles” is executed. And after mentioning how “Suck” could be about sex or life, the Wedding Present present the song beautifully, with Gedge’s lilt a little bit more evident here.
Although slowing down for the temporary slow-dance jewel “Come Play With Me”, the closest the Wedding Present might come to a waltz, the band tear through “Crushed” with equal aplomb and verve that by now has become the norm of the album and fortunately not the exception. Gedge nails “Ringway to Seatac”, with its dramatic structure that ends just a hair too abruptly. It’s a small price to pay, though, with the terrific trifecta beginning with “Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm”. The Wedding Present have a new album in the works with Steve Albini at the helm and set for a late May release. Here’s hoping it’s as stellar as this offering.