In November respected UK Indie band The Wedding Present released their ninth studio album, “Going, Going”. The release is their first double album and contains a prolific volume of 20 songs. The album tells the story of a road trip across America with each song linked to the other and accompanied by a short film. The Wedding Present’s reputation is that of one of the most long standing UK indie bands and they have clocked in with 18 UK top 40 hits. They are probably best remembered for their 1991 tour de force release Seamonsters.
In 1985 the Wedding Present was formed in Leeds during the incubation period for the Indie movement in the UK. The band is now down to one original member frontman David Gedge and has had numerous past lineups. The Wedding Present has endured many a music fad along the way. Throughout their existence the band has always provided a satisfying serving of punk infused with insightful commentary. This go round Gedge is joined by Charles Layton on drums, Danielle Wadey on bass and vocals and Marcus Kain on guitars. This outing is Wadey and Kain’s first release with the band. Both performers bring excellent musical abilities to the Wedding Present’s musical equation.
On Going, Going there is a juxtaposition of glorious string instrumentals with driving punk inspired sonics. The first four instrumental songs are beautiful and haunting. Listeners familiar with the band’s prior works might wonder what exactly is going on, but wait for it, the fifth track Two Bridges explodes, careening away from the introspection and instrumental experimentation of the first four tracks. “Two Bridges” serves up what The Wedding Present has always done best; provide a brand of sophisticated hyperactive frenzy. Throughout the release the sonic oscillations center around the theme of a clever chap with solid musical chops trying to figure out the emotions of love. Some of the highlights of the album are “Secretary”, “Kill Devil Hills”, “Fifty-Six” and “Fordland”. Secretary is everything wonderful that the Wedding Present has ever done in the past distilled into one song. It channels The Pixies and The Replacements with its wry wink to the universal frustrations of life. They are personified by the inability to talk to someone and only reaching them through their secretary. Kill Devil Hills is an irresistible song that grabs hold and won’t let go. It describes the inability to fight off the local femme fatale’s allure as she guides you like a siren onto the rocks. Fifty-Six, which is the age of frontman David Gedge, ponders how you deal with being 56 when you are about 18 in your head. The drums on this song are simply mad. “Fordland” serves up artillery like drums as the lyrics contemplate why the narrator has embarked on this cross country journey. He can’t figure out exactly why he is doing what he is doing but recognized that compulsion is driving him.
There are a lot of songs on the album, twenty in total. My personal feeling is that the concept of the stream of conscious tour across America is engaging but the album does get bogged down with so many tracks. Applying the guideline of less is more might have worked better. That being said the majority of the songs are noteworthy. Gedge in his songwriting indicates that he has moved on from the adolescence angst the band was known for and realized that middle age dread is just as toxic. Where adolescence holds the promise of the future, middle age brings the realization that the disappointments are real, and taxes, bad weather and the grave are inevitable. The album follows a rollercoaster of emotions from haunting beauty to questioning once solid relationships. The album ends with a more positive outlook on the final tracks, Rachel and Santa Monica. In “Rachel” the protagonist finally figures out he needs the title character in his life and comes to some resolution about the relationship. On “Santa Monica” there is a realization that all is not lost, there is still time and possibly happiness ahead. The song also reflects back the spiraling instrumentals of the first four songs.
With Going, Going The Wedding Present almost succeeds in making what was considered old new again. There are some true sparks of genius throughout the work. The addition of the two new band members brings notable excitement. There is always the danger when creating a double album of allowing too much filler into the album to pad it out, and unfortunately there is some of that going on here. A little more editing to the playlist would have served the album better. The musical performance throughout is accomplished and the lyrics are insightful and clever. It will be interesting to see what direction is taken on The Wedding Present’s next release.