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

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George Best


New Musical Express 10 October 1987

Wedding Present: just what we always wanted




George Best (Reception)

FONDUE SETS... his 'n' hers pillow cases... reproduction cake-stands... stereophonic pressure cookers... slug-ugly silver-plated cutlery... to the infallible rule that all Wedding Presents are both pitiably predictable and totally useless, our quartet of home-spun heroes are the only known exception. 'George Best' triumphantly confirms that unique standing, being both a surprise and a thing of beauty...
Two days after the first time I ever saw The Wedding Present my jaw was still dragging and bumping along on the pavement behind me. The fact that they played, rather than thrashed, at the finger-shredding velocity left me startled. That 'George Best' comes without a moment's respite from the sonic gale means I'm startled still. And yet, once you're used to the shock, and can hear past the surface clamour, you find both the surprise and the beauty...
The fact is, you see, that 'George Best' uncovers what was somehow hidden in the breakneck emotional blitzkreig of the WP's singles, namely that David Gedge is as good a lyricist as Britpop currently possesses. Here he's etched a dozen little lovescapes of sometime quite breathtaking realism, a world fuelled by desire, lust, paranoia, romance and bitterness, yet distinctlymore Dalston than Dallas, more Darlington than Dynasty. These are songs about fleeting eye-contacts, snatched and forever treasured, about drunken kisses and casual betrayals, about girls who walk home a different way each night to avoid the airhead wolf-whistles. Real situations, real feelings, real people, real love.

And 'real' does not translate into 'ordinary' because Gedge (like Costello, Morrissey, Bragg and Ray Davies, at their respective best) uses language-in his case, conversational and undecorated-to transform the personal and the mundane into the universal and the deeply affecting. Take, for example, the shrugging, spiteful resignation of 'Don't give me that/'cos you were seen/everyone thinks he looks daft/but you can have your dream' ('Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft'); or the sickening sadness of 'slowly your beauty is eaten away/by the scent of someone else in the blankets where we lay' ('All This And More'); or the desperate chirpiness of 'Don't Be So Hard' where the endlessly repeated line 'you're not like anyone I've ever met' is eventually poisoned by the whispered outro of 'at least not yet...'. It's as simple as this; for every face of the hoary old love thang, David Gedge has a new, and revealing, coat of paint.

In the present pop climate, The Wedding Present have been almost insanely brave. By refusing to make their music any more listener-friendly, or their lyrics any more sugary sweet, they hurl themselves wilfully into the face of accepted pop wisdom and maybe sacrifice the chance of Thursday nights out with Mel, Kim, Pepsi, Shirley and all the rest. But, that fleshly prospect notwithstanding, I reckon their courage has been utterly vindicated; David Gedge stands exposed as a prototype genius-next-door, while 'George Best' is an unmitigated delight, the best British debut of the year, and the most remarkable contribution to humanity ever achieved by supporters of Leeds United!

Danny Kelly

©2005 Chester Severien (