AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #296 : CINERAMA

It’s been a while since I actually came up with an ICA.  I thought it might be an idea to get one in before the blog turns 16 (Oh, and many thanks for all your kind words and wishes yesterday).

Those of you who followed the old series on the Cinerama singles back in April -June 2016 will be very familiar with much of the contents of this particular post.  I offer no apologies…..

For those who don’t know, Cinerama came into being in 1997 as a result of David Gedge deciding he wanted a different sort of sound from the guitar-pop he had been making with The Wedding Present. This new band was conceived as a duo with his girlfriend Sally Murrell with the addition of all sorts of collaborators depending on the music they came up with.  Over a six-year period there would be three studio albums and twelve singles.  There would also be eleven Peel Sessions/live performances, all of which would subsequently be gathered in one place and made available via a box set.

Lyrically, the songs remained everything that fans had come to love about TWP, while the music, once you got your head around the fact that David Gedge was now composing complicated arrangements with strings, woodwind and all sorts, was delightful and immensely enjoyable to listen to, as I hope I can prove with what this ICA (and bonus EP).

SIDE A

1. Maniac (from Va Va Voom, 1998)

The opening track from the debut album seems as good a place to start as any. Aside from David Gedge and Sally Murrell, there are a further fourteen musicians who make some sort of contribution to the album, with cellos, violins, flutes, oboes and trumpets to the fore alongside the standard guitar/bass/drums and keys. There was also a very special guest vocalist whom I’ll return to later on.

Subject wise, it’s another of the many Gedge classics about the aftermath of a relationship coming to an end.  One in which the protagonist is unable to let go, and over a lovely, almost pastoral tune, gets scarily unhinged.

2. Health and Efficiency (Peel Session, May 2001)

“Health And Efficiency isn’t exactly the catchiest of Gedge’s tunes, but it is probably his most ambitious. It proved once and for all that he was no one-trick pony.”

That was the very astute comment left behind by The Robster when I posted the single version of Health and Efficiency during that series back in 2016.  It was the ninth single and would later be used as the closing track on the third and final studio album, Torino.

I think it’s fair to say it is an epic, taking over 90 seconds of music and sampled dialogue before a very sad, reflective and ultimately depressing vocal about how time and the ageing process impacts on relationships. And just as it took ages for the lyric to begin, there’s as equally a long process involved as the tune continues and stretches out post-vocal, again with the aid of sampled dialogue, right out to almost six and a half minutes. Not for the faint of heart.

3. Lollobrigida (from Disco Valente, 2000)

By the time Cinerama had gone into the studio to record Disco Valente, their second album, they had expanded to a five-piece band with the addition of Terry de Castro (bass) and Simon Pearson (drums) who had been the rhythm section of indie-band Goya Dress, as well as Simon Cleave who had played guitar with The Wedding Present in the mid-late 90s.

There was a further connection to the old days with the decision to engage Steve Albini on production/engineering duties for Disco Valente, but anyone anticipating something akin to Seamonsters would have been sorely disappointed.  Lollobrigida was also released as a single.It starts off sounding a little bit like a quieter number by TWP, and just as you perhaps are being lulled into a false sense that it really isn’t going to go anywhere or do anything, the accordion kicks in, and it transforms itself from an ugly duckling of a tune to the most graceful swan.

And if you want some proof of how happy Davod Gedge seemed to be with his lot, then consider that here he is presenting his long-term girlfriend and muse with a song in which he compares her favourably to a famously stunning Italian actress.

4. Quick Before It Melts (single, 2002)

It’s a tale about infidelity via a one-night stand.  It is up there with the very best of the songs that David Gedge has ever composed.  I really should have kept it back for the songs which make great short stories series.

And when you said: “I’ve got nothing on beneath this dress”, that was such great flirting!
I usually find such candidness sort of disconcerting
But you said: “I don’t wear underwear because it leaves a stripe
People sneer, but do you think I care? They’re usually not my type!”

And soon we’re reeling from the beer that we keep buying
You ask me what I’m doing here and I start lying
You’re wondering what is on my mind is it a one night stand?
You laugh and say: “Baby I’m not blind!” and then you squeeze my hand

But please, let’s be quick before it melts
Please, let’s just be quick before it melts

The next thing I know we’re in the street and we’re being sleazy
You ask me if I want to eat, but I’m too uneasy
You put your hand onto the very place my girlfriend’s hand should be
You haven’t exactly got the kind of face that invites honesty

But please, let’s be quick before it melts
Please, let’s just be quick before it melts
You said: “If it feels right I just might let you sleep with me tonight
And then tomorrow, if you do go, you have my word, no-one will ever know”

An extended version was recorded and included on Torino. It consists of an extra two minutes of plaintive piano over church bells and chirping birds. I’ve often wondered if this is meant to represent the following morning when they wake up, and it becomes more than a one-night stand; or is it, perhaps, set in the future when the male protagonist is on his way to church to get married to his long-term girlfriend, but he reflects on a previous but unmentionable night of passion?

5. Love (b-side, 1998)

Cinerama announced themselves with the release of the single Kerry Kerry in July 1998.  It was issued as two separate 7″ singles and a CD single, offering up four additional songs as b-sides, all of which were every bit as wonderful as the a-side, which itself was voted in at #15 in the Peel Festive 50 at the end of the year.  I’ve long had a soft spot for this wonderfully sexy and occasionally kinky duet in which the guest vocalist is Emma Pollock of The Delgados.  It starts off with a spoken vocal, in French, before a happy couple then describe to one another just what it is that makes them fall head over heels.  Emma clearly had great fun with this one as she returned to the studio to add a vocal to one of the tracks on Va Va Voom.

6. Honey Rider (from Va Va Voom, 1998)

This side of the ICA began with the opening track from the debut album, and it ends with its closing track.  There are flashes of the Cinerama sound on this one, but it could equally have fitted well as one of the quieter numbers on a piece of vinyl released by TWP.

SIDE B

1. Wow (extended version) (from Disco Valente, 2000)

By rights, given this is another of my all-time favourite David Gedge song, this should have been placed somewhere on Side A.  It’s on this side simply for the reason that having already offered up Health and Efficiency, I wanted to separate the two lengthy numbers on the ICA.

I’ll just repeat what I said when I posted the single version back in 2016:-

“It’s another of the songs about infidelity. What I love about this lyric is how the protagonist spends the first two and half minutes detailing all the nagging doubts about cheating on his girlfriend, even as he climbs the stairs to a bedroom. And then…..

……he utters “But don’t close the door because I’m still not sure.”, after which there is a gap as he makes his mind up. A gap that is about two seconds in length…………….just long enough to let the listener know he’s feeling guilty but just short enough to let the listener know that lust has again triumphed over love.

Songwriting of the raw and brutal variety.”

The single fades out after four minutes as the guitars are reaching their crescendo.  The album version goes on for another almost three minutes during which time some brass comes in over the top of the tune, building up to what can only be described as a huge climax before bang!!!!……and a final 45 seconds to contemplate what you’ve just been party to.  Or am I reading too much into it?

2. Ears (from Va Va Voom, 1999)

Hello again Ms. Pollock.  The twisted indie antithesis of Elton John & Kiki Dee………..

3. Apres Ski (from Disco Valente, 2000)

A lot of the Cinerama material does seem to recall film soundtracks from the 60s, with the occasional nod to John Barry.

Apres Ski, the very sad tale of an older woman’s one-night stand with a younger man (possibly, and indeed most likely from her workplace), not only leans on the music from that decade but has a lyric in which said music is heavily referenced in the lyrics as a reference point for said woman.  It’s one of the cleverest of all the David Gedge compositions.

4. Superman (live version, June 2000)

Superman was the eighth single to be released by Cinerama, released in early 2001, but was already well-known to fans as one of the most popular tracks on Disco Valente which had been released the previous year.  It had also been part of a set that had been broadcast by BBC Radio 1 back in June 2000, when the five-piece band, backed by two cellists, two violinists, a flautist and a trumpeter descended on the famous Maida Vale studios and played before an invited audience, including their old friend John Peel.  Included here instead of the studio version to give an idea of how good they were in the live setting.

5. Comedienne (from Va Va Voom, 1999)
6. Careless (from Torino, 2002)

Two tracks deliberately chosen to close things off to offer up evidence that the remnants of TWP were there at the beginning of Cinerama and, by the time what proved to be the final album was being recorded, the guitars were again increasingly to the fore.

Was Careless a sign of the direction the band were going and perhaps that Cinerama had run its course? In all honesty, it’s hard to say.

It was shortly after the Torino tour that David and Sally, after a 14-year relationship, broke-up, and she took her leave of the band. During 2003 and 2004, there were further Peel Sessions and the idea was that a fourth Cinerama album would be recorded and released. In the end, almost all the songs first heard on Peel did make it into an album, but it was Take Fountain by The Wedding Present, which was released, to huge critical acclaim, on 14 February 2005.

It was tempting to include some of those Peel session songs on this ICA, but in my mind they are associated with the ‘comeback’ TWP album.

BONUS EP

TWP were famed for cover versions. Cinerama proved to be no different, coming up with all sorts of things for b-sides and/or Peel Sessions

A. Yesterday Once More (Peel Session, July 2000)
B. London (b-side, 2000)
C. Elenore (Peel Session, August 1999)
D. Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) (Peel Session, November 2003)

Originals by The Carpenters, The Smiths, The Turtles and Spiller (featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor). All of them turned into something akin to a Gedge original.

JC

6 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #296 : CINERAMA

  1. Cinerama were every bit as good as The Wedding Present – I can’t argue with any of your choices – Wow and Quick Before It Melts being two absolute favourites of mine

    And always good to see Gedge on the blog – have you heard Locked Down and Stripped Back? One of my favourite albums of the year – TWP doing some favourites almost acoustic – it’s really good!

  2. This is a nice little set of quality tunes. I like the covers, too: I’d never heard that version of London before and that mellow arrangement really works.

  3. Brilliant ICA, JC. ‘Wow’ is absolutely one of the best, particularly
    the LP version you describe so well. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

  4. What a joy this is. I’d largely ignored The Wedding Present until the late 1990s, when I lived with a girlfriend who was a huge fan. This more or less coincided with the birth of Cinerama so I immediately warmed to them, too. It was great to revisit (& discover more) Cinerama when you did the singles series – was it really 5 years ago?! – and, as Mike said, always love an ICA. Great selection, looking forward to listening to this mor over the coming week. Thanks!

  5. Fab. Thanks so much. Never really ‘got’ these, and not the greatest TWP fan either, but this into is superb and on constant replay atm. As with many of these brilliant ICAs, I kick myself in stupefaction.

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