John Peel once famously said that “the boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era”. He was correct, and here are 24 more examples
At the start of 1992, only one act in history, Elvis Presley, had achieved 12 Top 40 singles in one calendar year. By the end of that year, another act had equalled the King’s record – perennial John Peel indie favourites The Wedding Present. And the entire collection of songs was released on an album entitled The Hit Parade.
The Leeds band released a limited edition 7″ vinyl single every month during 1992, with an original song on the A side, and a cover version on the B side. It was a memorable achievement. The band decided to recreate the project last year, albeit in a very different musical environment – nowadays it’s all downloads rather than vinyl, and there’s no Top Of The Pops to allow the bands a rare television outing.
There are a few other differences between The Hit Parade and the 2023 version, 24 Songs. For a start, David Gedge (the one constant member since the band’s formation) has decided against sequencing the songs in the order that they were released, making this feel more of an album rather than a singles compilation. And, for the first time in the band’s long history, a co-writer is involved, in the form of Jon Stewart of Sleeper.
Yet it comes as no surprise to learn that otherwise all is very much as it was. The Wedding Present songs are notorious for “all sounding the same” (indeed, the band once released a t-shirt with this very slogan) and the template mostly remains on 24 Songs – howling guitars, Gedge’s idiosyncratic vocals, and lyrics about relationships going wrong.
Opening with I Am Not Going To Fall In Love With You is a smart move – it’s one of the poppier moments on the album and the jangly guitar chords sound like a throwback to the My Favourite Dress era. That’s followed by Memento Mori, which has an infectious stop-start melody, and some typical Gedge lyrics such as “You would see what I mean, if you could just stop being so nonchalant”.
Stewart’s influence on the band is clearest on tracks like We Should Be Together, which features Sleeper vocalist Louise Wener, and sounds like the perfect meeting point between C86 indie and Britpop. It did originally start off as a Sleeper song which was never released, and the decision to turn it into a duet between Gedge and Wener is an inspired one, resulting in one of the highlights of 24 Songs.
Even though he’s now in his 60s, Gedge is at his most affecting when singing about a broken heart. Science Fiction is one of the most poignant Wedding Present songs, seeing the singer grappling with an addiction to watching sci-fi films in order to “do anything to stop myself from thinking about you”. Monochrome treads similar territory, a lovely guitar line underpinning lines like “every day spent without you just becomes so monochrome, there’s no colour, life’s just duller”. When the guitars do eventually subside, it sounds all the more effective.
Admittedly, this is purely designed to appeal to fans – it’s fair to say that over 90 minutes of The Wedding Present may be a bit of a slog to anyone who’s not fully bought in. Yet those fans will find songs on here that stand up amongst the band’s finest – Don’t Give Up Without A Fight, with its cheerleader chorus, is certainly up there, while the closing The Loneliest Time Of Year deserves a place on any ‘alternative Christmas songs’ playlist.
And whether it’s the addition of Stewart, or just Gedge embracing the freedom that a career over 30 years old can give you, much of 24 Songs sounds like a band reborn – the exhilarating rush and choppy guitar of We All Came From The Sea for one, while Plot Twist is another in the seemingly endless Wedding Present canon of unrequited love songs (“They used to sing each other Fall songs, she tried to teach him Spanish, but then he waited for much too long, she just seemed to vanish” is pretty much your quintessential Gedge verse).
John Peel once famously said that “the boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era”. He was correct, and here are 24 more examples.