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The Wedding Present

Built around David Gedge's insistent voice and earnestly lovelorn lyrics, the Wedding Present are one of the founders and driving forces of indie rock in the U.K. Though the cast revolves around him, Gedge's devotion to quickly strummed guitars, lively tempos, and sharp hooks has stayed the same since their first single in 1985. The band started off awkward and energetic on those initial singles and 1987's George Best album, but as their confidence and instrumental prowess grew, their sound became richer and more powerful (1991's noisy masterpiece Seamonsters), or happily grungy, (1994's Watusi), or light and fizzy (1996's Mini EP). After splitting up the band in the late '90s to start the more orchestral pop-influenced Cinerama, Gedge re-formed the Wedding Present in 2004 and issued the bracing Take Fountain album. The years that followed saw the band alternating between anniversary tours to celebrate early albums and releasing records like 2016's Going, Going... and 2023's 24 Songs -- the latter collected a year's worth of singles, that continued to chart the course of Gedge's romantic travails with undimmed energy and skill. The band formed in 1985 from the ashes of the short-lived Lost Pandas, with guitarist Peter Solowka, bassist Keith Gregory, and drummer Shaun Charman joining Gedge. They became the darlings of the British press overnight, winning acclaim for their distinct guitar pop frenzy as well as Gedge's idiosyncratic vocal style and wittily conversational lyrics. Their early singles, like 1985's "Go Out and Get 'Em Boy" and 1986's "You Should Always Keep in Touch with Your Friends" found favor with influential DJ John Peel, for whom they cut their first radio session in February 1986. They also landed on the NME's landmark C-86 cassette compilation. Named in honor of the popular soccer star George Best, the Wedding Present's remarkable debut LP appeared on their own Reception label in 1987. After the album established their foothold on the U.K. indie charts, Tommy -- a quickly compiled overview of early singles and radio broadcasts -- followed in 1988. The Wedding Present's next effort came completely out of left field: titled Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peel, a compilation of three Peel sessions where the band played traditional Ukrainian folk tunes inspired by Solowka's father. Additionally, it marked the recording debut of new drummer Simon Smith, recruited after Charman exited to form the Popguns. After reaching the U.K. Top 40 with the 1989 single "Kennedy," the band returned in 1989 with the jangling, energetic Bizarro, their first album to be released as part of their deal with RCA. The album did well in America and the band decided to head there to record an EP, working with engineer Steve Albini on the decidedly heavier Brassneck EP. The experience and results were so positive that they recorded their next album with Albini as well. The dark and powerful Seamonsters was the result. After its 1991 release, Solowka, left the band to play full-time in the Ukrainians; guitarist Paul Dorrington was tapped as his replacement. Instead of recording a new studio LP, the Wedding Present spent the entirety of 1992 issuing a single on the first Monday of each month. Later compiled as the two-volume Hit Parade set, the singles featured original material on their A-sides and cover songs on the flipsides, among them interpretations of the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday," Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears," Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft," and Julee Cruise's "Falling" (better known as the theme to Twin Peaks). The departure of Gregory (to found Cha Cha Cohen) left Gedge the group's last original member, and the Weddoes resurfaced with new bassist Darren Belk for 1994's Watusi, a nod toward producer Steve Fisk, complete with vocal assistance from Beat Happening's Heather Lewis. Following a rather uneventful 1995, the group returned in 1996 with a flurry of new material; first up was the auto-obsessed Mini EP, later reissued with bonus tracks as Mini Plus. The full-length Saturnalia appeared at the end of the year, followed early in 1997 by the single "Montreal." Gedge then put the band on hold and formed the less guitar-oriented band Cinerama. They issued three albums and numerous singles between 1998 and 2003 that featured Gedge's girlfriend Sally Murrell. By the end of their run, the band began to sound increasingly Weddoes-like as guitars became more prominent once again. After Gedge split with Murrell in 2002, he moved to Seattle and began writing songs for a new album. He decided to revive the Wedding Present name, roped in his Cinerama bandmates (including bassist Terry DeCastro) to record, and the band released Take Fountain in early 2005. After a long spell of touring that saw the group spanning the globe and playing to scores of fans who were thrilled to have their heroes back, the group hit the studio again with Steve Albini and the resulting album, El Rey, was released in 2008. The new edition of the band went through many lineup changes, the most dramatic being the 2010 split with longtime bassist DeCastro. She was replaced by Pepe Le Moko for the recording of their next album, Valentina. Produced by Andrew Scheps (U2, Adele), it was released by Gedge's Scopitones label in 2012. The band soon parted ways with guitarist Graeme Ramsay, replacing him with Patrick Alexander and headed out on the road. During 2012, they played a series of shows where they tackled Seamonsters in its entirety to celebrate the album's 21st anniversary. Later that year they released a download-only EP of four songs recorded at the Valentina sessions, which could be bought in tandem with Valentina: The Story of a Wedding Present, a book detailing the album's creation. After some lineup shuffling that saw Le Moko and Alexander departing, Gedge and longtime drummer Charles Layton added guitarist Samuel Beer-Pearce and bassist Katharine Wallinger. The new version of the band hit the road in 2013, playing the complete George Best and Hit Parade albums to herald their respective 25th and 21st anniversaries. Once off the road, they focused on their next studio projects, Cinerama's opulent 2015 reworking of Valentina and the Wedding Present's ninth album. Released in 2016 after a successful crowdfunding effort, Going, Going... was a collection of 20 songs ranging from string-laden soundscapes to raging punk rock, each with an accompanying film shot during a road trip across the U.S. by Gedge and photographer Jessica McMillan. The following year, they released the four-song Home Internationals E.P., which found Gedge further exploring his love of instrumental music. Included was the track "Wales" (from Going, Going...), along with three newly penned compositions including "England," which featured novelist Simon Armitage reading his poem of the same name. That EP featured new bassist Danielle Wadey; she shifted over to guitar when the band went out on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tommy collection. Former member Terry de Castro also joined on bass. After the tour, the group headed into the studio to re-record the album's song in a modern, heavier style. It was released in mid-2019 under the title Tommy 30, just after they issued the "Jump In, The Water's Fine" single. The song was co-written by Wadey and featured the band's new bassist Melanie Howard. More lineup changes followed as former Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart and drummer Chris Hardwick of My Life Story joined in time for a late 2019 tour. This band was set to play at David Gedge's annual At the Edge of the Sea Festival in Brighton, but when plans were derailed by COVID-19, the band decided to record a set from their respective homes. The results were issued in early 2021 under the title Locked Down & Stripped Back and featured a duet with Sleeper's Louise Wener. The group issued a second volume of home recorded songs, Locked Down & Stripped Back Volume Two, in 2022. It included guest spots from past collaborators Amelia Fletcher and Peter Solowka. That same year, the Wedding Present reprised an ambitious project they had first embarked upon in 1992, releasing a two-song single each month. Mostly made up of originals, with a few covers thrown in, the tracks were a mix of revved-up rockers and moody ballads. As they had done before the two Hit Parade albums, they issued a collection of the singles. 24 Songs was released in June 2023 and contained an additional five bonus tracks.
© Jason Ankeny & Tim Sendra /TiVo


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