Review: The Wedding Present – Going, Going…

CD. Happy Birthday To Me Records

“No one would have believed in the early years of the twenty first century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” 

H.G. Wells there, with a little help from myself, accurately summarising the unfathomable eventuality that in the year 2016, it would still be a task employed by a select few to review the latest release from David Gedge, whose mind is clearly far more advanced than we ever dared to suspect.

Mr Gedge would often frequent the record store I worked at in Leeds after I left school. He was, bless him, something of a figure of fun – “Gedge!” we would shout, before ducking behind the counter, leaving him to wonder which shy fan could barely bring themselves to bow before him, copy of George Best in hand. Poor Dave. The laughs, of course, are on us, the record shop now nought but shadowed memory (actually, a clothes shop – slightly less poetic), The Mighty G meanwhile readying himself to release his first double album. What fools we clearly were.

A double album, if you please. Allegedly, this documents a road trip across America but let’s move on from that – he may exist on a greater plain but I draw the line to musing on his themes and holidays. To convince of the gravitas of this release, the first four tracks are instrumental, save for a spot of American radio chatter lest we not grasp the concept (which I’ve insisted you forget, please catch up) – less coherent is a section of wordless, choral chanting… must’ve spent a long time in the queue at the airport.

Come track five, Two Bridges (say what you see, Dave), and it’s business as usual, Dave in full-ish voice, playing the guitar in the same way someone who plays air guitar with no idea where your hands go…except whilst holding a plugged-in guitar. This approach reaches a bizarre juncture on Secretary, played and sung by a man who urgently needs to use the toilet and can’t afford retakes. If nothing else, it’s revealing of the man’s soul (and bladder). For all this, it is jolly entertaining. Birdsnest is shoulder-pumpingly fun, comfortably trumping Morrissey’s use of the word, “frankly” into a cocked hat. Bells and Fifty Six see him drivelling on but employing some guitar squawking that has remained untapped for many moons; a shame he avoids letting loose musically less than lyrically, not that I have any interest in what he’s blathering on about. ‘Twas ever such, but Dave’s hard-working prose is still gargantuanly self-indulgent and dates this release even more than the band name on the cover.

The second disc is a somewhat plaintive and studied collection, little in the way of raucous jangledom and more in a strangely fruity croon, one which, thrillingly, though surely unintentionally, drifts into roll-necked Jake Thackray territory – ordinarily a cause for celebration, here more an opportunity for a stifled snigger. Of course, it consists of alternate versions of what we’ve just heard, plus some live tracks, lest we’re not sure if Dave’s self-regard has eased. Good luck to The Wedding Present – they’ll never stop and people will always turn up to gigs, through wide-eyed wonder or lump-in-throat nostalgia, along with their grandkids. Deep breath…GEDGE!