The Wedding Present: Going, Going
Never ones to shy away from a change in audial direction, Going, Going represents perhaps the biggest shift in sound and ambition to have ever surfaced from The Wedding Present’s enduring career. Beginning in 1985 with a fresh-faced jangle ridden flourish, the band have evolved from that towards distortion-laced thunder in the form of 1991’s Seamonsters, lo-fi surf in 1994’s Watusi to 2016’s post rock monolith Going, Going.
Consisting of 20 tracks, all featuring a short accompanying ambient film, this was always going to be a marked change in style. Yet Going, Going also represented something of a test for the sole-remaining member of the group, the mercurial lead-singer David Gedge: could they really pull-off an album that could be considered a piece of modern art, rather than just love-lost rock tracks? The answer, thankfully, is yes. Going, Going is an album that the band have been building up to for just over a decade, however, beginning with their American landscape inspired return to form Take Fountain, and leading to El Rey in 2007. Going, Going is a far more successful attempt though at channelling the intricacies of the American wilderness, and is their finest album since their acclaimed Seamonsters.
Kicking things off with four lyric-less tracks in a row is a daring sonic move for any band, but particularly one who was won admirers largely for their lyrics. Kittery, the album opener, fizzes into life with ambience, which is broken with pounding drums channelling Mogwai immediately. This is a welcome indicator towards the direction of the album, as is the next track Greenland, which again features field-noise style vocals in the post-rock tradition. It is a daring change of style for a band who primarily deal in raucous 3 minute tracks, but Greenland works tremendously in forging a tone for the record. However, this track is also the only negative thing to emerge from the album, given that the vocals are provided by the loathsome Brix Smith.
Things take a more formulaic turn when the excellent Two Bridges kicks in, a classic meat and two veg Wedding Present stomper, which would often indicate a return to normality; however, it instead provides a refreshing ear cleanser, daintily placed after a lulling set of instrumentals. Lead single Bear is an excellent example of why David Gedge has been lauded by critics and John Peel-a-like for his dry, romantically realist lyrics. Secretary is a fiery, motorik monster, that amplifies into a speedy bruiser and shows Going, Going to be an exercise not just in changing direction and sound, but also in experimenting with the pacing and positioning of the songs. Essentially, the compiling of the album has become a challenge in itself, and one that is passed successfully. Tracks cleverly positioned to build on a certain pace, and then break it emphatically.
This middle section of the album is admittedly, more of a classic ‘weddoes’ record- though there is more bite to the sound. The jangling is replaced by thick, oozing layers of crackling distortion, and there is a sense of aggression, rather than anything faye. This is a band determined to make a record to be remembered, and that they have. In this section of the album there are no poor tracks aside from Broken Bow, which is hardly offensive, but is questionable lyrically and rather plodding. Fifty Six is an outstanding blend of the Byrdsy jangling and their new found appetite for cleanly produced distortion debauchery, but the next real highlight is the track Wales. Although the Welsh narrative at the start lasts slightly too long, Wales is a showcase for all of The Wedding Present’s strengths. It has the mixing of pace, the quiet to loud swoons, the layered strings of Gedge side project Cinerama, and the perfecting combustion moment where the moments reach a crescendo. The final track Santa Monica is their best track in years. At a hefty ten minutes, it breezes by effortlessly, and is a stunningly deft track. It is perhaps the track most reflective of Going, Going in its formula, yet has an archetypal, unmistakeable Wedding Present sound; sweet, honied, jangling guitar pausing to release a flurry of smashing drums and amphetamine charged noise, and following this cycle throughout.
And that, folks, is really the secret to why Going, Going is quite possibly the group’s finest album since Seamonsters. It marks a new-found sense of experimentalism, yet keeps a smattering of trademark Wedding Present sound. This is something, perhaps, that is often overlooked however. Critics who define the band as a one-trick pony in their jangling, classic ‘indie rock’ (yuck) sound have clearly failed to notice that the band have been evolving and rethinking their sound for years.
The departure from the admittedly simple, fresh and breezy sound of their classic debut George Best to, just four years later, Seamonsters, is drastic. Having hit their stride, they changed once again to create a strangely lo-fi record in Watusi, which sounded more like Guided by Voices than the Stooges. The Mr Gedge turned his attention towards 60s beat pop, orchestral grooves and lounge influenced film scores with Cinerama. The Wedding Present are one of the most adaptable bands in recent times; each album modern, yet in keeping with their trademark and ‘oh so’ identifiable sound. The Wedding Present will not, in the future, be heralded as a ground breaking band who innovated new sonic techniques and challenged the perception of what a quaint, northern band can create in the recording studio despite their fractious relationship and humble beginnings. They will, however, be viewed as a band who are always willing to evolve, and with Going, Going we see this ideology fruit a superlative album indeed.