A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM STRANGEWAYS
On the day that so many people will meet up for the first ever time it does somehow seem appropriate to feature a guest contribution from one of the number.
Strangeways, like so many of the blogging fraternity, is someone who prefers to hide his light under a bushel. It takes all sorts of arm-twisting and gentle persuasion to get some words and thoughts out of him and I’m really pleased he has given me something so unusual and perhaps provocative just in time for this special and historic day; a post and concept that might well be worth talking about over the weekend….I think just about everyone coming along is a TWP/Gedge fanatic.
Going, Going... is The Wedding Present‘s new – well, latest (Sep 2016) – LP. And weighing in at twenty tracks, it’s a monster.
For Weddoes nuts, the record delivers some absolutely scorching songs. To these ears, phantoms from both the Seamonsters and Saturnalia albums inhabit a fair chunk of the album and there are some massive, thrilling barrages of ‘go fuck yourself’ guitar throughout.
On that musical side, for the most part, it’s hard to imagine a bigger, noisier landscape than when the ‘loud’ component of the trusted ‘quiet/loud/quiet’ blueprint kicks in (check out Wales, with its remote, staccato first half and, in a happy case of influences returning home, its epic, emotional, sock-knocking British Sea Power-ish second). But that the entire thing opens with four curveballs – a quartet of instrumentals/spoken word tracks (special mention to the elegant and otherworldly Marblehead) – indicates that for at least a time we’re in entirely new territory.
I know of some Weddoes sympathisers – think by-election-only Green Party voters – who have been a bit scared off by the number of tracks and, perhaps, also by rumours of those left-turns that open the record. So if you’ve not heard the LP, here are four tracks to give you a taste.
Elevated by some really terrific female vocals – a welcome thread running through Going, Going… – Bells is a standout. Creeping guitar makes way for one of David Gedge‘s cruellest choruses – and am I finally losing it or is there something of The Cure‘s Lovesong going on in the music?
In another world – perhaps even in the recent past on this planet – Rachel, with its classic, killer chorus, would be the Weddoes’ Losing My Religion or Smells Like Teen Spirit. You know the song, the kind of track that makes it, somehow, beyond the borders of the bedroom and the indie disco. The one that mugs you when you’re buying corn flakes. The one that you fell, hopelessly, in love with.
But that was two months and 15,000 involuntary listens ago.
And now you can’t stand it. Anonymously, you send it foul messages in the post. And it’s compelled you to set up a hate group.
Well, with the demise of the single as ‘an actual thing’, at least that won’t happen this time.
It took a while for Emporia to grab me. But when it did, it didn’t let go. Don’t let the really lovely, David Lynchy opening fool you. This is a song of two halves in the tradition of say Bewitched or Perfect Blue (and like Perfect Blue, I wish the generously long tail-end was even longer).
The perfect closer. A lengthy fade-in recalls Seamonsters’ Blonde, whilst, underlining the sense of something ending, a pensive fade-out is reminiscent of Mystery Date from predecessor LP Valentina and also 50s, the track that slowly, reluctantly snuffed out the 2006 Saturnalia album.
Santa Monica is tinted, also, by shades of Cinerama‘s Don’t Touch That Dial and the Weddoes’ Octopussy (a fellow LP-swansong). It matches the scale of Dalliance, whilst the trickling, bending guitar work reminds me of one of the band’s most charismatic numbers: Catwoman. Listen out, also, for a line-check from A Million Miles. It’s a poignant thirty-year echo connecting this latest album with the (touring-this-year) debut, George Best.
Going, Going’s… ominous title coupled with its last line may suggest that the game is up. On this evidence, that would be a shame. It’s one thing for a band that’s all out of ideas to call it quits. Quite another when it fires out an LP that can stand alongside the best of a formidable back catalogue.
Just to overdo things further, I thought it’d be interesting to grab half of the LP tracks and attempt to staple together a traditional ten-track album.
This is kind of an obnoxious thing to do – especially if you’re aware of the idea at the heart of Going Going… – that each track is linked, and that together, they contribute to a bigger story. It’s a bit like chopping up celluloid and gluing the strips into an under-the-counter Viewer’s Cut. Replacing the lovely sleeve (a shot from the thoughtful series of short films the band commissioned)? More blasphemy. And renaming it? Well, that’s just asking for trouble. Therefore, for those piqued enough to muck around with their LP or Spotify, here it is: Emporia – an imaginary version of a real album.
Bonus track: Marblehead because the third season of Twin Peaks is approaching, and this sounds like it could be on the soundtrack.