The Wedding Present
- 11 Dec Lincoln Engine Shed
The Wedding Present have had eighteen UK Top 40 hit singles… not bad for a band that has, from its inception, stubbornly refused to play the record industry’s game. It all started in 1985 when David Lewis Gedge boarded a National Express coach in London with 500 records packed into a pair of his mother’s suitcases and, in this fashion, delivered the band’s debut single GO OUT AND GET ‘EM BOY! to a distribution company in Yorkshire. That pioneering spirit has been at the core of the band’s philosophy ever since. From GEORGE BEST, “an unmitigated delight” [NME], the first full-length release on their own Reception Records onwards, the band has charted an appealing, if often eccentric, course of its very own. With their early releases The Wedding Present had acquired a reputation for bittersweet, breathtakingly honest love songs immersed in whirlwind guitars, so it was extraordinary that UKRAINSKI VISTUPI V JOHNA PEELA, with the band exploring traditional Eastern European folk music, should be their major label debut for RCA Records. “(They) carry off what is basically a bold experiment with verve” [NME]. However, this was soon followed by the more traditionally incendiary BIZARRO, “simply unbeatable” [Melody Maker] which featured their first hit single KENNEDY. The next step, made with characteristically twisted Wedding Present logic, was to enlist the aid of the noise-mongering [and, at that point, relatively unknown] sound engineer Steve Albini. The resulting SEAMONSTERS, recorded in the snowy wilds of Minnesota in just 11 days, suggested a more thoughtful Wedding Present. The Guardian newspaper noted that: “Albini has given The Wedding Present considerable weight, with Gedge’s voice trickling between banks of scowling guitars”. Indeed, the singing ranged from sensual whispering to feverish screams. The band came up with their next intriguing idea in 1992. By the end of December, The Wedding Present had released twelve singles, one per month, equalled Elvis Presley’s 35-year-old record for “most hits in one year”, rekindled everyone’s interest in that ultimate pop format, the 7″, and led the NME to describe the band as “casually revolutionary and underhandedly unique”. A gang of impressive names, including Ian Broudie from The Lightning Seeds and legendary Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller collaborated on the industry-challenging project, ultimately to be compiled on the two HIT PARADE albums and awarded “record of the week” by Tony Parsons in The Daily Telegraph. WATUSI, produced by Steve Fisk (a prime mover in the celebrated avant-garde scene of Seattle) whisked the band off into yet another new area with its lo-fi pop, three-part a capella harmonies and Waikiki-ready surf strains. This “strong, multifaceted album” [Select], sprinkled with 60s and 70s pastiches, was described by critics as their most varied and dynamic to date. “Watusi is (their) ‘White Album’, a re-assessment of their sound that finds them doing what they do best” [Melody Maker]. The band returned to England to record their next release, the car themed MINI, “a gem of a record” [Melody Maker] in which Gedge cloaked his tales of love, lust and infidelity with automobile symbolism. To commemorate this release, the band played [with two drummers!] at the BBC’s ‘Sound City’ event, which was held that year in Leeds. During the concert, the winner of a prize draw was announced and a lucky Wedding Present fan became the owner of a real life classic Austin Mini motor car provided by the band and delivered by David Gedge himself! The follow-up, self-produced album, SATURNALIA, was again released to a flurry of critical approval. The NME exclaimed that “David Gedge has just written one of the best pop albums of the year” while The Melody Maker noted that in the new recordings, which were completed in the London studios belonging to The Cocteau Twins, you could “hear an experimentalism that would send half of New York back to the lab”. It was at this point in 1997 that Gedge started work on a new project called CINERAMA in which he indulged his love of film music from John Barry to Ennio Morricone via Serge Gainsbourg, Blaxploitation, easy listening and surf music! Cinerama started life as a duo [Gedge and his girlfriend Sally Murrell] together with a shifting line-up of collaborators. 1998′s VA VA VOOM “turbo-driven melodies and bittersweet vignettes taking in everything from John Barry to the Zombies” [The Times] featured The Church’s Marty Wilson-Piper and Emma Pollock from The Delgados. Following its release, Gedge recruited the rhythm section of the disbanded Goya Dress (Terry de Castro and Simon Pearson) together with Wedding Present guitarist Simon Cleave for his new band. Cinerama released a clutch of singles in support of their debut LP, as well as a number prior to 2000′s Steve Albini-recorded DISCO VOLANTE “dangerously, seductively sweet” [Melody Maker]. Notable were the heart-rending SUPERMAN (complete with alternative Spanish take) and the six and a half minute epic HEALTH AND EFFICIENCY (also available in French!). The third Cinerama studio album, TORINO (released in 2002), was much darker than the first two, with Gedge returning to a more guitar driven sound and deciding to write predominantly about infidelity. “Cinerama are escaping the shadow of Gedge’s illustrious indie-legend past. Torino is a giant beast of adulterous lyrical fantasies, cult soundtrack flourishes and the screams of Albini-engineered guitars” [Uncut]. At the end of 2002, Gedge and Murrell unexpectedly split up and he decided to leave Leeds, his home for the preceding twenty-four years and move to Seattle, Washington. Following the end of this fourteen-year relationship, Gedge began writing a collection of songs apparently influenced by his despair over the split. TAKE FOUNTAIN, the resultant album, was recorded in Seattle by Steve Fisk and released, perhaps ironically, on St. Valentine’s Day 2005. This saw Gedge reviving the Wedding Present name for the first album since 1996′s SATURNALIA to a torrent of critical acclaim. “TAKE FOUNTAIN is as eloquent an emotional discourse as he has mustered” [Mojo]. “Fans have long since recognised Gedge as more poet than pop star. Like Byron without the marsh fever, TAKE FOUNTAIN confirms his status as an extraordinary songwriter” [The Times]. In the wake of TAKE FOUNTAIN’s success and after almost an eight-year hiatus, The Wedding Present set out on a mammoth twenty month concert tour of Europe and North America which included most of the major festivals and ended in November 2006. The following month Gedge relocated temporarily to West Hollywood, California. In January 2008 the band assembled in Steve Albini’s Chicago studio to record EL REY, which was released in the summer of that year to further critical acclaim. The NME described the album as “a beauty… some of the funniest, cleverest and most relevant indie you’re likely to hear this year” while The Guardian newspaper agreed that “Gedge has consistently been way ahead of other, more lauded musicians”. At the end of 2008 Gedge fulfilled a long held ambition by releasing a bona fide Christmas song, HOLLY JOLLY HOLLYWOOD, a duet with Los Angeles based chanteuse, Simone White. Now back in the UK, April 2009 saw Gedge collaborating with the BBC Big Band for the bi-annual FUSE Festival which was held back in his home town of Leeds. For the event he performed Wedding Present and Cinerama songs backed by eighteen world class musicians including legendary 'James Bond' trumpeter Derek Watkins. In what proved to be a busy yet unusual year for Gedge he also made his debut as a radio DJ in Texas, released his bass player’s solo album on his label Scopitones and launched his own annual self-curated mini-festival, AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA, in Brighton, England. Also in 2009, two Take Fountain songs, I’M FROM FURTHER NORTH THAN YOU and RINGWAY TO SEATAC, appeared in the award winning independent film Skills Like This. In 2012 The Wedding present released VALENTINA to further rave reviews. Of the album, which was mixed in L.A. by Grammy award winning producer Andrew Scheps, and also came out in book form, Magnet [USA] said: "guitars meander before slicing, the rhythm section is taut and Gedge hits all of his favourite topics - love, lust and spite - often in the same three or four minutes". 2012 also saw the release of a new comic book series, TALES FROM THE WEDDING PRESENT, which, Gedge has hinted, is essentially his memoirs in graphic novel style. Another notable release in 2012 was the '4 Chansons EP' which saw Gedge singing four tracks in French and which was followed in 2013 by the '4 Lieder EP' in German and in 2014 by 'EP 4 Cân' in Welsh! In what turned out to be a huge and comprehensive reassessment of the band, 2014 saw Edsel Records re-releasing eight Wedding Present albums in critically acclaimed multi-disc 'extended' editions which brought together a wealth of historic recordings, radio sessions and videos. Such has been the unpredictable nature of Gedge's career over the years, hardly anyone could have been surprised when he announced yet another remarkable project in 2015. Collaborating with Spanish indie legend Pedro Vigil he decided to 're-imagine' The Wedding Present's VALENTINA album as Cinerama. The resulting recording was also entitled VALENTINA and, with its "musical set pieces and vocal nuances fine enough to rival Bacharach and David", was described as "a truly sparkling and uplifting concerto for the modern age" by Vive Le Rock Magazine. Cinerama celebrated the release of this remarkable album with live performances in London and for BBC Radio 6 Music using additional musicians including a string quartet, brass and a flautist.