JoeMc on 07/08/2010 at 02:53PM
Legendary British DJ John Peel was always vocal about the bands that he considered a cut above the rest. From the late 60s until his death in 2004, Peel made a practice of devoting large segments of radio time to the bands who pleased him most. Undoubtedly, his most famous endorsements were two bands that were so constantly celebrated by Peel that they became identified with him: the Fall and the Undertones. The Fall appeared on Peel’s program more times than anyone else (24!), and as for the Undertones, his feelings about them may best be gauged by the fact that he asked for a lyric from “Teenage Kicks” to be carved on his tombstone after his death (to at least one commentator’s displeasure).
But coming up not too far behind the Fall and Undertones on Peel’s list of perennial favorites were those lads from Leeds, The Wedding Present, who appeared on Peel’s show so many times that you can now buy a six-CD set of their sessions. In fact, if you were to add in the sessions Wedding Present founder and only consistent member David Gedge logged as Cinerama, then Gedge and mates are second only to the Fall on the Peel Love Index. A worthier tribute no man could ask for.
Well, Peel may be gone, but the band he loved lives on: The Wedding Present continues to record and perform, 25 years after their first show and single. And they still play on the radio, as evidenced by this track from an appearance on KEXP earlier this year. The song is as yet unrecorded, so it’s all exclusive-like; they’ve been playing it live, but it hasn’t yet made its way onto a 7” or CD. Go out and get it, boy!
So, why did John Peel love the Wedding Present so much? What makes them so special? Well, a lot of it has to do with the songs of David Gedge. Although various permutations of the band have received more huzzahs than others, the one constant has been the songwriting. He’s often spread around the credit in a likably democratic fashion, but Gedge has always been the song engine in the Wedding Present mini; he was behind the wheel in 1985 and he is now. The hallmarks of his songwriting style remain intact: catchy melodies gleaned from 60s and 70s pop; the dramatic dynamics, bracing energy, and directness of punk; and perhaps most recognizably, lyrics that dissect relationships with a keen eye and a witty tongue. Take this songwriting style and combine it with a predilection for playing as fast and as loudly as possible, a guitar style less dependent on technique and flash than on persistence and volume, and a singing voice somewhere in the neighborhood of an anxious, amped-up Fozzy Bear, and you’ve got a fairly solid idea of this band’s enduring appeal.
Where to start if you're new to their charms? Fans have their favorites, but helpful entry points are George Best (first album), Bizarro! (a sort of stylistic consolidation), Seamonsters (Steve Albini toughens their sound), and Watusi (a signpost for a more streamlined model that would eventually lead to Cinerama). The most recent album is El Rey (2008).
Keeping track of the Wedding Present’s line-up changes isn’t easy; they’re sort of like the Fairport Convention of the C86 bands. As far as I can tell, the current line-up consists of Gedge with Terry DeCastro on bass, Charles Layton on drums, and Graeme Ramsey on guitar (formerly on drums!). Lately they’ve been playing Bizarro! in its entirety with a vigor undimmed by the years. If you happen to be in Wolverhampton or North Yorkshire, they will be playing out that way on July 16 and 17; they will also be appearing at the 2010 Berlin festival in September. If you don’t happen to be in the UK or Europe this summer, then check out this live set from the heyday of Bizarro! for a nice sampling of the gift that just keeps on giving.