The Wedding Present were always the more sensitive student’s band of choice, so much so that at times they were in danger of slipping into self-parody. Always clad in black and featuring songs with unremittingly grinding guitar, topped off with David Gedge’s distinctive voice singing songs about being dumped by his girlfriend, they were often the whipping boy for the more cynical members of the music press.
Yet the Weddoes’ self-deprecation (they once brought out an official t-shirt baldy stating ‘All The Songs Sound The Same’) and sheer power of albums such as Seamonsters and Bizarro always set them apart from more run of the mill groups. When Gedge broke up the band to start Cinerama, he seemed more settled: a more poppy element was brought into the music and he actually seemed – gasp – happy.
Cinerama started off very different to the Wedding Present, with John Barry style melodies and string sections. However, over the course of their three albums, the crunching guitars and dark songwriting crept back in until the band’s last album Torino was virtually indistinguishable from Gedge’s old group.
Now, nine years after the last album Saturnalia, it’s come full circle and Gedge has reclaimed the Wedding Present name – when you hear that his 14 year relationship has recently broken up, you can guess what’s coming. Just one listen to Take Fountain will reassure you that although the years may have passed, age has not mellowed David Gedge: nobody writes about relationship break-ups quite like him.
Musically, this is probably the most varied Wedding Present yet. Recent single Interstate 5 broods along magnificently for around six minutes, and then turns very weird for its coda – all spaghetti western theme and mariachi horns. Mars Sprinkles Down Upon Me is completely different, a beautiful ballad which addresses the problems of staying friends with an ex (“how can I shake his hand when it’s been all over your skin?”).
Don’t Touch That Dial (a re-recoding of an old Cinerama single) and Ringway To Seatec are on slightly more traditional ‘buzzy guitar rock’ territory, while Always The Quiet One and I’m From Further North Than You show off Gedge’s more poppy side. The latter in fact, is one of the best things he’s ever done, a funny bittersweet tale of a relationship gone wrong, involving red bikinis and weird pornography which had memorable days, “but just not very many”.
As with Morrissey‘s comeback album last year, you sometimes get the nagging feeling that Gedge is too old to be writing about heartache and relationship break-ups, but he does it so well that it never feels false. Besides, you’re never too old to have your heart broken are you?
In the wake of John Peel’s death, it’s fitting that one of his favourite bands have reformed and released an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with their best work. With many of their early ’90s contemporaries reforming (The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, Pixies), Take Fountain is the perfect reminder that David Gedge is still at the height of his powers.