Album Review: The Wedding Present – 24 Songs (HHBTM Records)

by | Sep 27, 2023 | Album Reviews, Blog

The latest album from The Wedding Present24 Songs, shakes off the cobwebs of stagnation, channeling the same freshness that propelled the band to indie stardom with 1987’s George Best. David Gedge, the band’s irreplaceable nucleus, has long been an archivist of turbulent love and angsty insurgency. With 24 Songs, the Leeds-based outfit adds yet another chapbook to its storied library—a fascinating tome at the intersection of past and present, recalling the band’s The Hit Parade project from three decades ago. With such a lengthy history, it is a surprise the band has never visited Bucharest before. But that all changes on Thursday, October 5, as The Wedding Present joins Control Club’s 15th anniversary festivities.

The Wedding Present’s DNA is an amalgam of inspirations, an etymology extending back to the fast-paced indie rock of The Fall and Buzzcocks and the post-punk intellectualism of Gang of Four. Gedge’s lyrical profundity has been compared to Morrissey but with a candid rawness that outshines The Smiths frontman’s oft-affected delivery. But 24 Songs is not just a nod to the past but an exploration of the present. This sprawling offering (29 tracks if one includes the additional numbers and remixes) epitomizes the band’s evolution from post-punk revivalists to something altogether more expansive. This evolution is palpable, from the Steve Albini-produced pre-Nirvana Seamonsters to the aforementioned The Hit Parade series, which tied with Elvis for the most hits in a single year. 

I Am Not Going To Fall In Love With You sets the tonal vocabulary for the album. It possesses the quintessential The Wedding Present ethos—a disarming directness swathed in complex, frenetic guitar layers. The music has a palimpsest quality, where lyrical sentiments become almost textural. Memento Mori is also like this: Gedge’s idiosyncratic lyricism grapples with existential dilemmas, inviting listeners deep into the intricacies of life and death. If George Best was about love, and Watusi (1994) dipped into lo-fi pop, then Memento Mori is a well-wrought tapestry of what’s in between.

While seemingly an odd pairing, Gedge’s collaboration with Britpop staple Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart is an eloquent dialogic between two generational moods within British indie rock. Their combined creative labor births tracks like We Should Be Together, where Stewart’s melodious riffs enrich Gedge’s lyrical craft and vocalist Lousie Werner’s (also of Sleeper) emotional sincerity. Songs like Monochrome also feel particularly emblematic of their thematic concern—sifting through the grayscale of romance and existential angst.

Yet, the band’s heritage is not merely archival; it’s a living, breathing entity that relies on its foundations to evolve forward. The binary of Science Fiction and Summer showcases this dexterity. They resonate with a thematic yin-yang that has matured over the decades. Science Fiction, for example, evokes the band’s experimental venture on 1996’s Saturnalia but takes it forward into a distortion-laden modern setting. In contrast, Summer is a nostalgic trip down the memory lane of sun-drenched afternoons. The guitars are less distorted, focusing instead on jangly chords and harmonious progressions.  

An additional word must be said about the tactile nature of the project—initially released as double A-sided 7″ s across 2022. The commitment to vinyl is undoubtedly a counter-narrative to today’s bite-sized music culture. It echoes a bygone era while contextualizing itself within modernity’s temporal disarray. Interestingly, Gedge decided not to sequence the tracks chronologically. He turns the vinyl format into a canvas of multiple beginnings and endings. It feels like a nod to the cyclical nature of art and love and perhaps the band’s own musical journey.

24 Songs culminates into what could be considered a Gesamtkunstwerk. While their 2016 release, Going, Going…, has been described as Gedge’s magnum opus, 24 Songs is as much of a self-aware artifact reflective of both the individual and the collective. A must-listen for longstanding fans and newcomers alike, 24 Songs is less a recollection of indie rock history than a living continuum of it.

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