SIT YOURSELF down, put down anything sharp and prepare the valium drip - this may come as a bit of a shock. It's like this: for the past ten years David Gedge has been one of the most consistently brilliant and grossly underrated songwriters in Britain. Still conscious? Then brace yourself because, what's more, he's just written one of the best pop albums of the year. That's DAVID GEDGE. From THE WEDDING PRESENT. You heard.
Surprising news, obviously, since this is the band that have defined the word 'cult' ever since 'C86' was buried under the weight of its own cagoule. There were countless limited-edition seven-inches, gigs packed with new songs and no encores and a stout refusal to play 'Kennedy' or 'My Favourite Dress' on request. Plus, every month in 1992 a bunch of spacemen would appear on TOTP to plug a single that sold out two weeks previously. For a decade in the post-credibility wilderness Gedge hid his genius with masterful precision, smothering tunes from the gods with huge guitar noises and the vocals of a ruptured bricklayer. No wonder the kids were baffled.
Then came Urusei Yatsura.Finally, 'C96' has made elder statesmen of the Weddoes and 'Saturnalia' is their new manifesto. "Make a movie today!/Buy a red Chevrolet!!!" Dave howls as the chorus to first single '2, 3, Go' rockets off into speed-pop heaven and the Weddoes become the grinning pop imps that 'Boing!', 'California' and even 'Shatner' only hinted at. Optimism? Commerciality? FUN!?! Whatever happened to standing outside girls' houses stabbing pins into a wax effigy of HIM?
Ahh, seems Dave Gedge has grown up, lost his spots and gained a few lines of experience. He's no longer the angst-ridden teenage dump magnet that helped many through their Clearasil phase. Sure, he's still an emotional punchbag of the highest order, it's just that his inner turmoil has matured to the point where he can - gasp! - cope with it. The REM-ish twangler 'Montreal' finds him resigning himself to his loved-one's buggering off abroad with subdued grace, while 'Jet Girl''s tale of a relationship-hopping emotiopath is draped over a cheery romp of hula guitars and classic hooks. In fact, the only time Dave lets loose a gutteral cry of primal angst occurs during closer '50s', and even that's offset by the melancholic dancehall-waltz verses.
The true position of Gedge's head, however, is contained in 'Kansas', a rampant pop beauty in which Dave packs his bags at a moment's notice and flies off to an unknown future - a spangly new beginning, who cares where. After all, while his guitarshave stayed mammoth-proportioned and his vocals still gargle from a hard day's bricklaying, ten years on, pop music is slowly coming around to his way of thinking again. So hook up the Valium drip NOW because The Wedding Present's time might just have come once more. Shocked? You will be, my dears, you will be... (8/10)