Well, this will throw everyone who treasured their “The Wedding Present: All The Songs Sound The Same” t-shirt back in the day. For over 30 years, David Gedge has found a niche and stuck with it: songs about unrequited love backed with some grinding guitars and usually played at a breakneck pace. There’s been the odd departure – Gedge’s side-project Cinerama channeled his inner John Barry – but it’s fair to say that Going Going begins like no other Wedding Present album.
For this is that most modern-day of things, a ‘visual album’ and the opening four tracks are all instrumentals. It’s a weird experience to hear a Wedding Present album without the familiar Gedge growl but that’s what happens for the first 15 minutes or so of Going Going. It’s an inconsistent start, as they’re probably the weakest tracks on the record – with the exception of the lovely piano chords of Sprague, all probably work better with the accompanying visuals rather than as standalone tracks, be it the bludgeoning post-rock tones of Kittery or Katherine Wallinger’s floaty vocals on Marblehead.
It’s only when Two Bridges kicks in that The Wedding Present we know and love reappear – there’s a rush of guitar and Gedge is singing about having to dump someone via voicemail as his girlfriend’s switched her phone off. There’s something weirdly reassuring about hearing those famously flat Yorkshire tones singing “it’s a coward’s way, and I know I may come to regret this bit…”, and Going Going is scattered full of such typically wry lyrical gems; see also Bells’ wry admission that “I only called you darling as I’d forgotten your name, what a total unqualified disaster this all became”.
There are several moments on Going Going that can easily stand alongside The Wedding Present’s best work. Bear is reminiscent of their finest album Seamonsters, with Gedge wrapping up one of his prettiest melodies inside the iron fist of a host of swirling guitar noise – and even sneaks in some unfeasibly cute boy/girl harmonies on top of it all. Birds Nest is beautifully jangly and carefree, and the closing 10 minute epic Santa Monica makes a cute lyrical callback to A Million Miles from debut George Best (“when you returned my smile, it all became worthwhile”).
The only problem is that, at 20 tracks, it’s far too long, and while there’s nothing particularly bad here, the weaker tracks seem a bit like filler. Secretary is simply Gedge becoming ever more furious that he can only speak to his other half’s secretary, Wales is a rather uneventful instrumental, and there are a few too many undistinguished rockers weighing down the second half of the album.
Despite this, there’s still enough evidence to back up the late John Peel’s famous claim that “the boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock’n’Roll era”. For Gedge has always understood how love really is – messy, exhilarating and all-encompassing. And when, over 30 years into his career, he can effortlessly produce something as delicate and wistful as Rachel or as heartfelt as Little Silver, it’s clear that he’s still got that talent in spades.