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

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Hit Parade 2

SINGLES GOING UNSTEADY

New Musical Express 2 January 1993

THE WEDDING PRESENT
Hit Parade II (RCA/All formats)

 

 


 
THE SEVEN-INCH single is about to die.
Think about it. The chunky plastic coins that once mapped
out the progress of millions upon millions of adolescences are
the component parts of a culture that still retain a tear-jerking
romance: Top Of The Pops, proper jukeboxes, Sunday
evenings spent crouching next to the radio to hear the Top 40.
They're all expiring, forced into the afterlife by multi-
formatting, declining sales, The Chart Show and Altern 8.
Still, never mind, eh? The Old World isn't quite dead. It's
found its last champion in a scruffy ex-student who loves the
seven-inch single like a close relative. He likes appearing on
TOTP. He's probably a bit miffed that Pan's People weren't
around to shake their stuff to his records. So he hatched the
one-45-a-month scheme to guide several thousand Wedding
Present fans through the last traces of the things that
probably made him pick up a guitar in the first place.
As well as indicating the terminal nature of the Old World's
illness (industry bigwigs have seized upon the apparent
success of the exercise as prime evidence of the bankruptcy of
the singles chart), the Weddoes' one-year plan has
highlighted much of what we'll be missing. Like the warming
certainty that comes from knowing that what you've bought
is the definitive article (as opposed to "part one of an
exclusive collector's edition"). Like the beautifully simple
coupling of seriously-constructed A-sides and flips that
contain all manner of weird daftness. Like the reassuring
"clunk" made by record players when the music has finally
been swamped by static and come to a close.
In this instance, such thrills were only available to the hardy
souls who got up early once a month and trooped down to
their local Our Price. The rest of us have to make do with the
two 'Hit Parade' collections, which take the whole project
away from its romantic seven-inch setting and leave it
vulnerable to all sorts of criticism. After all, without the
matching art work, hot-off-the-presses excitement, and clicks
and pops and clunks, much of the appeal of these records is
lost.
The B-sides are the perfect case in point. The six (spanning)
June to December) that are collected here frequently plumb
the depths of dashed-off stupidity, sounding like the work of
people who've mistakenly let their rehearsal-room jokes into
the public domain. There's a certain ham-fisted charm to the
Weddoes' rendition of Bowie's 'Chant Of The Ever Circling
Skeletal Family', but the reading of Bow Wow Wow's 'Go Wild

In The Country' is wince-inducing rubbish. 'Theme From Shaft'
isn't much better. And the instrumental 'UFO' is worse.
But that's not the point. They were designed for the one-off
chuckle, the "wonder what this is like" moment that's an
integral part of the consumption of the traditional single.
You're not meant to put them into your multi-racked CD
player and scrutinise them as digitally-reproduced art
statements.
The main features (all 12 of which are presented on a
giveaway limited edition BBC sessions album) fare better.
''Flying Saucer', which is up there with March's 'Three' as one
of the best Weddoes A-sides of the year, has a great chorus,
loads of visceral guitar-bashing and a vocal that encapsulates the box-bedroom lust that is David Gedge's stock-in-trade.
'Boing' is surprisingly heart-wrenching, while 'Love Slave'
splits its time between being hushed, coy and hypnotic, and
coming over like the splenetic work of a bunch of Sub Pop
signings. And 'Sticky' is, superficially, trad boring Wedding
Present, all scratchy guitar and grunted vocals, but there's
enough eccentricity in Gedge's squealing of the "Go on, go on, BET OUT!" hook to give it a fired-up, neurotic charm.
Unfortunately, 'The Queen Of Outer Space' comes over like
a crushingly unremarkable howler; a song that would turn
heads if it was on an unsolicited tape, but from the
Weddoes sounds like three minutes of water-treading and
under-achievement. 'No Christmas', meanwhile,
demonstrates the album-tracks-as-singles problem that's
bedevilled a large portion of the project. Schizoid, dirty and
all-over-the-place, it's the perfect song to appear halfway
through an album - but hardly the kind of thing that you want
coming out of your clock radio first thing in the morning.
Like its predecessor, 'Hit Parade II' is an irritatingly patchy
rag-bag that contains a small handful of minor treasures, the
odd bit of beguiling experimentation, and a few things that
would have been best left on the cutting room floor. Such
sentiments, however, are prompted by music emerging from
a retrospectively-compiled CD. For several thousand
consumer-fetishist Wedding Present fans with shoeboxes full
of perfectly-presented singles and recollections of Monday
mornings finding out exactly what Gedge and company had
forged this time, the memory of the last years should remain
unsullied. From their point of view, the whole contrivance has
been a weird success.
Next year, Wedding Present records will be available on
Super Digipak Free Badge Format, and the seven-inch single
will continue its frisbee-like flight into oblivion. 'Hit Parade II'
stands as another unsatisfactory memorial to the last protests of the Old World. Forward to the future! Unfortunately. (6)

John Harris

©2005 Chester Severien (Chester@Severien.nl)