Album of the Week: The Wedding Present – Valentina
Staying power is a wonderful thing, and something the Wedding Present have buckets of. While other popular 80s-born indie bands have long floundered, David Gedge and co have just banged out their eighth album in 27 years.
That period includes a hiatus when Gedge regrouped as Cinerama of course, but you could be forgiven for thinking there was no more to the band than Kennedy being played on repeat on 6 Music (this is a GOOD THING by the way).
But they’re still going strong, and the follow-up to 2008′s El Rey not only builds on that album’s success but also takes a more direct route into your subconscious. If you haven’t heard lead single You Jane, it’s classic Gedge with guitars set to ‘jangle’ and canny lyrics seeped in relationship woes.
But as anyone who’s heard the Steve Albini-produced Seamonsters will know, the Wedding Present have always been about more than bubblegum pop songs and indeed you’re exposed nice and early to some similarly shredding guitars on You’re Dead, a rumbling opener that presents the new line-up in full flight.
Ah yes, the new line-up. We’re not into Fall-esque revolving door band members territory, but this is an almost completely different set of musicians to the group that created El Rey. Among them is Swiss bassist Pepe LeMoka who adds cooing backing vocals throughout, most pertinently on The Girl From the DDR in an appropriately Teutonic fashion.
Back A Bit… Stop is a punchy number with a huge chorus and would have been an equally fine choice for a single as You Jane, while Deer Caught in the Headlights revisits the sharp guitar sounds we heard at the start.
With their first three albums – George Best, Bizarro and the aforementioned Seamonsters – Gedge could have walked away from music with his head held high, knowing that he’s left a strong legacy that will continue to get powered out on 6 Music on a regular basis. While the songs on Valentina are unlikely to generate the same levels of long lasting affection, to see a ‘veteran’ still turning in high quality albums makes us very happy indeed.
And what’s more, we were supremely honoured to grab a word with Mr Gedge this week.
How do you think the band has changed since El Rey?
We seemed to have acquired a somewhat rockier line-up! I’d like to take all the credit for this and say that it was by design because I knew we’d be playing ‘Seamonsters’ live this year… but it was just good fortune, really. That being said, I think there was a desire to move away from the more poppier sound of El Rey, anyway. This happens after every album… you feel like you want to go somewhere else for the next one.
Is it hard to balance the ‘nostalgia’ side of the Wedding Present (reissues, tours, etc) with making new material?
Initially, I did think that that might be the case… but I’m totally used to it now. Ever since we did ‘George Best’ live in 2007, in fact. I’m now as happy to re-investigate the history of the group as I am thinking about the future. It sort of feels to me now that I’ve been in about eight different bands since 1985 and each fits into the overall culture of The Wedding Present in its own way. It’s kind of fascinating, actually.
Are there any particular influences that went into Valentina?
Graeme Ramsay, the co-writer and guitarist on Valentina plays drums as his first instrument… and I think that probably had an effect on the parts he came up with and influenced the structure of the songs. Some of them have quite odd arrangements! Plus, I wanted to utilise the fact that our bass player, Pepe le Moko is Swiss… so I wrote our first bilingual duet!
Any UK festivals lined up this summer?
We get offers all the time, but you have to be careful of over-exposure. So far we have confirmed The Chilli Festival at Bath Racecourse and Sound City in Liverpool for May. And, of course, there are my own annual ‘mini-festivals’ in Brighton and Holmfirth for August!