The best of our modern rock music is not made from the wish-fulfillment posturing of an Oasis, or the detached irony of so much of our culture that may be cute but cannot sing. It’s never a poseur, or even a very good student who knows the marks but has not lived, bled, hustled for art and survival both.
“Modern Rock” as we once called it, the alternative, emotive, heartfelt and yet entirely solidly guitar-driven stuff that is a cut above, that becomes bible, tends to come from dark, immutable places. Places that we say can never see the light of day, until the day that they must. Iconic songs spill out of a single private diary. A singular voice, clear and raw, written in the midst of bare crisis, maybe unfiltered, and definitely on the knife-edge of broken-heartedness. Of bleakness. Of blackness. But somehow, the greatest songs bring their creator, along with everyone who hears them & feels it, right back from that edge. The best music of our rich, exciting, end of a century time sounds like David Gedge.
The Wedding Present’s devoted base of fans have followed the band’s trajectory since 1985 when they carved a significant place for themselves immediately on the back of a number of strong singles and debut record George Best. Not incedentally, but importantly, some of the most hard to please music fans in the world have long traveled up and down the U.K. with the same fervent devotion as those who make away matches their business, and unlike the statistical realities of sporting defeats, Wedding Present fans are not let down by the result. And so, in the way few besides footballers and musicians (and those loyal supporters) can do with ease, the north and south mistrust and regional biases, present everywhere in the world and in music, the eyes that narrow at accents the outsiders can’t hear, disappear, at least for two hours.
In music, borders and oceans cease to be, passports are what you hold in your hand on a black vinyl platter, a circle fitted perfectly into a square, a key of sorts. “This person!” thinks the listener, sitting at home, gobsmacked. “This wonderful person has read my mind and my heart and my heartbreaks -old and healed or new and raw-and understands me.” No matter that the writer was writing their own private diary, unafraid, firing an arrow and hoping to aim the flight true, to write themselves against all odds and the cold shale of this world out of a tight spot and to find understanding somewhere, even at their darkest hour. We fans claim the diary as our own, the writer as our ally and friend, no matter where our geography plants us, roots us, or locks us.
The Wedding Present always brought their sound and their message from a place decidedly, and wonderfully, northern. Out of Leeds, stamped with that iconic image of George Best, Belfast’s own (forever one of the greatest footballers, and still revered long after his professional career ended) legend, The Wedding Present took the pitch with confidence and ease, and remained a mainstay honouring themselves and their many fans, immune to musical fashion and trends, but in the way only real artists are, becoming their own biggest influence. A class apart.
The new album, Going, Going, The Wedding Present’s ninth studio release, is a unique project comprised of 20 interlinked tracks and an accompanying film. Vinyl buyers will find a hefty, exciting package, the best of all things, a double album with abundant extra materials. The album has been well received all over the music press who so rarely gets organically excited these days, as a band known for innovation in the industry (at one time reviving the singles format single-handledly) has delivered us a modern day meaty concept album right on time (and ahead of the curve as usual.) At the same time, the essential record that started it all, George Best, marks its 30th anniversary. In between these two goal posts came our current obsession at this magazine: 2005’s Take Fountain (the title is a Bette Davis bon mot, when asked to give advice to aspiring actresses, her answer: to take a little known Hollywood side street) was both utterly practical and close-lipped. The only advice a legend could or would give to those at her heels. Outside its meaning, the title is evocative and interesting even out of context. It calls back to the beautiful optimism & experimentation in music and culture of the late eighties and early 90s when The Wedding Present first rose. An album title, even a band title, could then be grabbed off a commercial, a throwaway line, an in-joke, or be a reference to your own detours necessary in your adopted city and country, an essential map to escape and demarcate what must be left behind in love, in life, in music. It could be throwaway, a nod to a singular actress, or deeply personal. Art is perceived individually at the end of the day.
The early 90s feeling is entirely captured in this 2005 record in the best way. It genuinely feels like music felt in those beautiful days, when we were all carelessly beautiful and indifferent, ignorant of age, needing sleep or what pain really was. There are plenty of notes here for fans of Cinerama as well; indeed the record began as that and evolved to the other. Positively cinematic- the origins of all good records have their own unseen arcs, trajectory, side routes, rarely shortcuts, but maybe instead take the long way home, a necessary journey.
Going, Going has been taken out on the road steadily both at home (UK/US) and abroad. A band with this back catalog can have no easy task when planning a setlist but it all just flows seamlessly. “Interstate 5”. “Kennedy”. The new record. The first time playing “Mothers”, a long ago cover song by New Zealand band The John Paul Sartre Experience (our notes become intelligible at this point, but it is a good ‘un.) The Toronto show at The Horseshoe is full of ecstatic men who’ve had this band on rotation since their very first love, tonight carrying new vinyl for signing, whose bliss is contagious. They hold their little spot but cordially give others room in a packed, dripping hot club, which is not to say we are not rocking, we are all the kids who listen and pay attention, and few phone cameras appear for a change. We are all celebrating, too, the rare joys of the great crowd that is in harmony, that waits for nights like this for a very long time. The sly looks and secret smiles that Toronto fans rarely permit to shake their detached urban facade.
David Gedge and The Wedding Present here tonight is an event, a special night, in a renowned venue that has seen its fair share of historic moments and true musical heroes. It is unmissable amid the crowded scene downtown of Toronto’s biggest music week: CMW. This is music so good it causes you physical pain. You are speechless, at this late stage, full of 90s youthful optimism, lost in the musical keys that make you ache, but you’ve got to write something. You can’t explain it, someone else has already said it better. It’s love, the real deal.
The Wedding Present’s Canada/US tour continues to 30th April: Seattle (25th) Vancouver (26th) San Francisco (28th) L.A. (29th) and San Diego (30th). The band then returns to the U.K. in May and June to extensively tour George Best in its entirety (the last time the record will be played) then on to tour Australia and New Zealand.
More information can be found here.
By Jacqueline Howell
Jacqueline is the Co-founding editor of DISARM Magazine and falls in love with music as often as she can, but is loyal to the end.