Music Reviews
Going, Going...

The Wedding Present Going, Going...

(Scopitones) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

The Wedding Present is the gift that keeps on giving. For the past 30 years, the longstanding indie rockers have somehow survived through a profusion of band changes without ever being condemned for it in the same way as, say, a band like The Fall. And there’s a good reason for this - The Wedding Present is apprehensive to change, a trait that gives them a long-earned longevity, if not a false chronology. You can play any of their records in any order and you’ll never feel lost - main songwriter David Gedge’s barbed observations are always compelling, and the energy of those shambolic guitars never loses a beat. It’d be a strange day when that essence he carries alongside his cast of players is lost, as his signature style will never wane even if the music gains or suffers from it.

So it’s something of a surprise when their latest, Going, Going…, begins in unconventional terms - instead of a finely-tuned guitar, what we actually hear is a subdued, dallying melody that hints at something grand. The instrumentation eventually breaks free with a heady rush of crescendoing arrangements, as it eventually slows its pace with a pairing of songs that take a more deliberate pace. The first 15 minutes of Going, Going… are quite the anomaly, as the band take their chances with all sorts of songwriting experiments ranging from tender harmonies to even a solo piano piece. But it doesn’t last for long.

If anything, you kind of feel cheated, or perhaps relieved depending on the kind of band you want The Wedding Present to be, when the following song, Two Bridges, quickly ricochets into their regular brand of unrestrained guitar bursts. Bridges also features those same sad utterances on regret, with just a shade of self-placating attitude, that are quintessential to Gedge’s zippy melodic treatment. And to be fair, other songs like Little Silver and Fifty-Six tone that jangle fervor down to give emphasis to either crunchy atmospheric thrills or dramatic chamber elements. There’s an evident ambition at play here, and regardless of the sonic temperament there’s always a good reason to take these songs up to eleven with soaring climactic peaks.

The main issue with Going Going… isn’t the quality at hand, more so that it doesn’t know when to stop. There’s an apparent, almost distracting lack of cohesion, which makes sense since Gedge describes it as a collection of tracks that are tied to something of a cinematic motive. The band sure felt mighty open-handed, and then some, considering how they tackle the 75-minute project with such a comprehensive scope. That leaves The Wedding Present at a precarious position - a song like Rachel, for instance, hints at them taking at the more accessible grandeur of British rock bands like British Sea Power, while Emporia follows the fluttering dynamics of Explosions in the Sky and Sunny Day Estate post-Diary. But the manic guitar onslaught of Ten Sleep and Secretary (this one is an almost accidental take on cabaret) suggests that old habits don’t disappear, even when they are supplanted with new habits.

It’d be easy to consider Going Going… as their more diverse effort ever since they spun and whirled us with their snappy C86 material, except that The Wedding Present just has a different view in terms of how their songwriting should evolve. This is certainly their most exploratory set in easily over a decade, even if it also features some of their most exquisite songs (and Gedge’s smart maxims still ring true). The direction they took this time around is more scattershot than usual, amplified with generosity, but hopefully these new ideas will guide them to a more focused and inventive pursuit. And seeing as they’ve been active for over three decades, the likelihood of another go-around is practically guaranteed.