Thursday, September 1, 2016

Going, Going, Now Here: A Look At The New One From The Wedding Present

You want the usual Wedding Present refresher? The talk of how this band has been chronicling domestic adventures with a set of buzzsawed chords and blunt vocals for a good 3 decades or more? The reminders of why David Gedge has earned his place next to Morrissey as one of the most important, if not the best, British indie front-men ever? The summary of what makes the music of The Wedding Present the fulfillment of the promise of those early singles from The Buzzcocks?

Well, too bad. I'm here to talk about the new Wedding Present release, the ambitious Going, Going..., out Friday via Scopitones. The kind of thing that marks a turning point in a band's career, this album is bold in scope and the culmination of so many things in the Weddoes' more recent history. Going, Going... is offered up as a 20-track album that serves as a sort of record of a trip across the United States. Not as much a concept album as it might seem, Going, Going... advances the art of The Wedding Present in a significant fashion.

The album's 20 tracks are meant to co-exist alongside 20 corresponding films for these individual songs and that very fact should offer up the proof of Gedge's intent this time out. If that didn't do the trick, the first 4 cuts on this mammoth album being instrumentals would have done it too; one is impressed that such a distinctive vocalist would silence his voice for such a long stretch of an album, especially the opening section. Still, by the time that Gedge's voice (and guitar) roar into life on track 5, "Two Bridges", a listener has been primed for just such a dramatic entrance. And the music serves that moment well. Shortly after, on the fuzzed-out "Bear", Gedge works his way around an insistent melody that doesn't sound too different from those on Bizarro, even if the tempo is slower this time out.

On the surging "Birdsnest", the other players -- bassist Katharine Wallinger, drummer Charles Layton, and guitarist Samuel Beer-Pearce -- provide Gedge with the kind of lift-off his tunes usually require. If "Secretary" is a bit silly, "Bells" is sublime, all plaintive vocals and expertly-chosen chords. One can't but help and hear a trace of something that surely informed the peak-period Superchunk releases and a listener clearly grasps the huge influence that Gedge's style certainly had on a whole generation of Brit-import-buying American music fans at some important points in the not-too-distant past.

Elsewhere, one must think that if "Fordland" is near-prog, and "Emporia" is far more expansive than most Wedding Present tracks, then "Broken Bow" is the mid-Nineties Wedding Present template updated for the 21st century. As Gedge explains how the "pain of failure is so much greater than the pleasure of success" and Wallinger coos behind him, the music incessantly races forward. "Ten Sleep" buzzes like a swarm of bees, while "Rachel" offers up a sort of wistfulness before the soft-and-then-pummeling album closer arrives, "Santa Monica" being a near-epic in the Wedding Present catalog.

In addition to the players, producer Andrew Scheps is to be given credit for giving this behemoth a luscious sheen. The result is an album that feels at once modern -- and progressive in the real-est sense of that term -- and decidedly human and emotive. Easier to appreciate in its totality, Going, Going... still contains nuggets of Gedge's wit and craft sprinkled throughout during the individual vocal tracks. I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though it feels like a concept album, it's certainly more accessible than most. Serious and spry in equal measure, this is a record to let yourself absorb in full.

At its best, and when taken as a whole, Going, Going... serves as a potent reminder of the talents of David Gedge and a re-assessment of his place in indie rock history. Pigeonholed on the basis of the seminal tracks he wrote in the mid- to late Eighties, his work can, as this album shows, go far beyond such easy categorization. Further to that point, Going, Going... is so revelatory in spots, that a listener can only hope that this album heralds a turning point in Gedge's artistic life towards a future of similar such brave endeavors. This is, quite simply, a big, bold, large statement of artistic intent. And, as such, Going, Going... is one of the best releases of the year and, by any even assessment, surely one of the best long-players in the back catalog of The Wedding Present.

Going, Going... is out Friday, September 2, via Scopitones. The same site is also the best source for news about all things Wedding Present (and Cinerama).