Monday, July 14th, 2008
The Trouble With Men
Photo by Catherine Wygal
It’s understandable if you lumped the return of The Wedding Present a few years ago as part of the ongoing series of ’80s band reunions, though as I pointed out they never really went away, just changed their name for a bit. Regardless, that was the angle with which most approached 2005’s Take Fountain, a fine record to be sure though I’d maintain that the two preceding Cinerama records were just as strong. Which all sets the bar fairly high for their latest effort, El Rey.
Though they emerged with the original wave of C86 bands, The Wedding Present (and Cinerama) has always seemed to exist apart from musical trends with little in common with their contemporaries in British guitar rock – listening to them there’s no hint that they existed through the years of Baggy, shoegaze or Britpop. The musical world of David Lewis Gedge was always solely occupied by the romantically wronged or inept, and the women (or men) who did it to them, and defined by Gedge’s razor-sharp wit delivered with his distinctive bark and churning guitarwork punctuated by janglesome pauses. Though the production aesthetic has varied from orchestrally lush to almost uncomfortably arid, Gedge’s muse has been remarkably consistent over his twenty-ear career.
And El Rey does nothing to break that streak. Benefiting from some more distance from Gedge’s breakup with longtime girlfriend Sally Murrell, it has a more playful, third-person vibe than its predecessor though that’s a very relative thing – even at his most pained, Gedge never lost his sense of humour and even when writing from a strictly fictional POV, he’s able to inject his protagonists with a most believable pathos. With production duties courtesy of Steve Albini, who helmed the Wedding Present’s arguably finest hour in Seamonsters, and despite the departure after the last record of longtime guitarist Simon Cleave, El Rey does a fine job of balancing all the various facets of the band’s personality – the playful and the pained coexist in the lyrics and the sonics rage or ruminate as needed.
While it’s true that El Rey brings little new to the table, as long as men and women continue to screw each other and screw each other over, there will be grist for Gedge’s mill and audiences with whom his songs will resonate. So whenever he delivers a new album of incisive observations, especially recorded by someone as sympathetic to his aesthetic as Albini, it’s cause for celebration and earns a rightful place alongside his many, many other albums of incisive observations.
As promised when I caught he and bassist Terry De Castro play a short set at SxSW, Gedge and the full band will be coming to North America this Fall for a full tour including an October 3 stop at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. I caught the Wedding Present twice on the Take Fountain tour and both shows were excellent – I expect no less from this one.
The Skinny talks to David Gedge about the new record, living in California and affection, or lack thereof, for The Cure. Indieoma also has an interview but be sure to stop the ultra-annoying autoplaying video on the left before reading.
Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers talks to Billboard about the decision to go wholly independent with regards to the release of Fortune/Forfeit, out October 7. They’re at the Phoenix with Okkervil River on October 12.
The first video from She & Him’s Volume One hit the interwebs at the end of last week but only exclusively in the US – it’s now up on YouTube for all to see. They’re at the Opera House next Wednesday, July 23, with Freakwater as support.
If next week’s King Khan & The Shrines two-night stand at the Horseshoe on July 23 and 24 wasn’t enough for you, note that they’re doing an in-store at Sonic Boom on the Thursday night at 7PM.
And a gentle but firm reminder that there’s no better place to be tonight than Sneaky Dee’s where you’ve got The Kadane Brothers (ex-Bedhead, current of The New Year) and Bottomless Pit (from the ashes of Silkworm) for just $10. There can be nothing better than this – it’s a mathematical fact.