The moment's gone (a tribute to The Wedding Present)

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David Gedge + Marilyn in eternal love triangle with sea monster

Lime Lizard, July 1991, by Clive Gabriel

Beer in one hand, chestnuts in the other, Clive Gabriel takes a personal look at The Wedding Present and finds himself very close to the (g)edge. Matt Anker takes the photos.

When I fell in love for the first time, my girlfriend (as I saw her) was my life support system yet she was also making me die inside, I couldn't let go. Without her I could see no point to life. (I found little solace in Joy Division.) What finally saved me was the most spiteful act inflicted upon me yet. She purchased a copy of The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead, scratched across the vinyl sparing only one track and censored the sleeve notes leaving only the words to a song which has haunted me ever since. I Know It's Over still makes me cry every time I hear it. I had to throw the lp away as I couldn’t bear to read the lyrics ever again. She had needed me more than she had ever loved me. Now I know it's over I just wish it had never begun.
Not until I discovered George Best did I find comfort In the fact that I was not the only one ‘to walk past your doorway a thousand times - just to catch your eye.'

You’re Not Like Anyone I’ve Ever Met - at least not yet.
A million miles from Leeds, The Wedding Present recorded their new lp, Sea Monsters, in a small town in America. With Steve Albini at the controls. who initially worked with the band on the single, Brassneck, things were likely to happen fast. In fact, even the band themselves, legendary for their preparation and organisational prowess, were surprised by the swiftness of their labours.
"It was amazingly quick, 12 days. We just went in, set the stuff up, played live and mixed It."
Myself and David Gedge, in conversation in a bar in Leeds, are mulling over the old themes of relationships, obsessive fans, Birdland and, just to keep me on my toes, (this Is my fifth meeting with the most amicable man in pop), he’s gone and sacked another band member.

Were you a little unsure about working with Albini? You said yourself, following the Brassneck ep that you thought an lp produced by the man from Big Black might sound a little...well, what I’m trying to say is that.."
"He’s a complete nutter!" David tactfully interjects. "I think it’s a lot better than I expected. I did have reservations about working with him. I think...I hate to say this about someone who’s such a nerd sometimes, but he’s a brilliant engineer. I was quite scared it would end up coming out like (makes a noise I cannot describe without long-winded explanations of how a vacuum cleaner could become entangled in someone’s trachea while being filed with gravel) all the way through. But it’s not like that at all. Apart from The Pixies and The Breeders, we’re the only other band he has worked with who do acoustic type songs. He spent a lot of time getting the sound of an acoustic guitar right, which for me sounds a bit funny, Steve Albini being into big guitar sounds and singing as well... He has strange methods of recording vocals. He’ll use, like, three mikes, one on the floor and one, here, to pick up breathing."

By the time the guitars have built up into a crescendo, Gedge is yelling "Call that a diet!', with more venom than he's ever spat into a song before. In common with all my other favourite wordsmiths, David cannot get away from his all consuming obsession with women. Roberts, Shields, McKee and Morrissey all say the same thing in a thousand ways but Gedge is perhaps closest to Friedrich Nietzsche, in mirroring the writer's maxim that 'women are not even shallow'.

On Sea Monsters, after the stark, extreme, guitar wail that finishes Dalliance, 'Suck' comes as a melodic relief, only to be balanced by the bitter words, 'Suck It All Out Of Me, that appear to signal that Gedge has finally had enough. Fashion seems to dictate that guitars are rushed through a myriad of effects whilst words should be straight but cliched. That's why a lyric such as "Suck It All Out Of Me" is so rare today. My Bloody Valentine have produced similar meaning words. "Sue Is Fine" was supposed to rhyme with suicide. All I'm saying is that if I hear another long-haired student, with his foot on a wah-wah pedal singing 're-a-lie-ise', I'm gonna pelt him with Janet and John books!

"It's weird sometimes, when people know the songs better than me. People have studied the lyrics and they can quote me and say, 'what is the line after so and so' and I just haven't got a clue, especially if it's an old song. It's a bit worrying in a way.
Having a new guitarist, together with what you've said in the past, is it even less likely that you're going to play the old songs live?
"I feel like I'm cheating people sometimes if I'm playing My Favourite Dress for the eighteenth thousandth time. It doesn't have the same emotion as the new songs. It's just going through the motions. With new songs, I'm still playing the part. I feel like it's special.'
Err, no chance of hearing your opinion on Birdland?

"It's a pretence. They pretend to be rock stars, have pretend haircuts and pretend songs. I'm not interested In those groups, they'll be washed away. It's groups like The Wedding Present and My Bloody Valentine who may not be fashionable for ever but can come back a year later and produce an excellent lp. Which turns that fashion theory on Its head."
So, Sea Monsters will not be an album of funky-drum beats and wah-wah pedals purchased by baggy shirted kids wanting to sing along to the word 're-a-lie-zze' spun over 18 syllables. Fashion can be fickle but The Wedding Present transcend It.
"I don't really care who likes the lp to be honest. I'll always be quite selfish as I only make records for me. I don't make them for RCA, journalists or customers. If no one likes it l'm not bothered much. I don't like it when people criticise the group because it means too much to me. I take it personally. I always feel like writing back and saying you're wrong. If people like your record it makes you feel good but it doesn't influence the way the band works. You have got to change otherwise everything is worthless because you've done it before. I'd hate to be in a position like Status Quo or Queen where every record is a rehash of the previous one. We've consciously changed the way we play guitars. We've changed the music and the lyrics have changed. I'm writing about bigger things in more extreme ways. In the past I've been a bit guilty of being somewhat pedestrian. 'I waited at the bus stop and the bus never came' Now I'm getting more down to it really."
Your lyrics have been described as phone conversations with a lover. I guess you've now decided to replace the receiver! Have you become cynical?
"Yes, I've become more cynical with age I think. You become less juvenile about relationships. It's the most important thing in peoples' lives. It's not just 'I'm meeting someone, then I'm breaking up with someone'. There's a million things that happen in between. People have arguments and love affairs all the time. I still receive loads of mail from fans. I tend to get poems. It's nice that people see me as a figure that they can write to and explain their problems, but the whole point of the songs is that we all face these problems in life and we don't know how to solve them. So I should be the last person to ask."
Chestnuts thoroughly roasted, it's time to find out about the new boy and, more to the point, the sacking of Grapper.
'Well, we just decided that it wasn't the perfect situation with Peter playing guitar. We felt he was holding us back a bit, mainly because he's not really interested in our sort of music. He's interested in Ukrainian folk music, which is fair enough. But it was quite difficult sometimes. I had to write all his guitar parts which made my job a lot harder. This slowed us down a bit. Also, he's quite a difficult person to work with in the musical sphere. However, he's really good at business, so we shifted him over to running the accounts. Also, it's good to have new input. We had one line up change before and it was really good then, fresh blood, different ideas. Paul Dorrington is a friend of Simon's. He's been in a Leeds band called Tse Tse Fly. He's not a famous guitarist, Terry Bickers or anything. Just a bloke we know. He's a nice lad and likes the same music as us.'
A year earlier, perhaps, and you might have recruited Bickers from The House Of Love?
"Errm, he's completely mad isn't he? Still, that would be good actually" adds Gedge guardingly.
Following my second pint, the conversation nosedives into smuttiness, (never far from my mind), as I touch upon the subject of fellatio. Isn't Suck a bit too obviously 'rude' to reach anywhere near the Top 40?
"It might be a little controversial but there's nothing rude about it. It's just an action by the mouth, like with a straw. I'm willing to defend it as a piece of art. It's not sexist, it's not racist and it's not gratuitous. It simply describes a certain feeling. Completely metaphorical, you understand!"
With Suck and Heather, The Wedding Present's new lp Is the first record since My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything to fuse sexual innuendo and guitar so potently. With so many bands in the wake of The Valentines endeavouring to paint in fancy aquamarines and emerald greens, the primary colours can create a stark and bitter profile when used to outline the nature of relationships.
©2005 Chester Severien (Chester@Severien.nl)