TONIGHT I’M GONNA PARTY LIKE IT’S 1989
by Lawrence Mikkelsen
The Wedding Present is one of THE great bands of the last twenty years. As loud and dynamic as the Pixies, as lovelorn and lyrical as The Smiths. The band first featured on the genre-defining NME C86 cassette tape and released their debut album, George Best, in 1987. Despite constant championing of legendary DJ John Peel, 18 hit singles, and feverish cult appeal, The Weddoes (as they’ve affectionately known) have never really broken through to achieve the mainstream success that so many of their contemporaries did.
David Lewis Gedge has been fronting the band for more than a quarter century. In that time he has survived major and minor labels shakeups, multiple lineup changes, brushes with the UK charts (The Wedding Present still feature in the Guinness Book of Records for having twelve UK top 30 hits in twelve months), excursions into Ukrainian folk music and a foray into baroque lounge pop under the name Cinerama. Long-time collaborator Steve Albini produced the Wedding Present’s most recent album, Valentina, which features the usual mix of strong melodies, lovelorn lyrics and extremely loud guitars.
I spoke to David Gedge on the phone prior to The Wedding Present’s upcoming NZ shows this month. For fans such as myself, the wait has been excruciating – the band made it as far as Australia a few years ago, but this will be the first time they’ve ever played New Zealand. “I’m really looking forward to it” Gedge said, “We’ve been having emails, letters, Facebook and Twitters (sic) from both Australia and New Zealand for years, and we’ve always tried to arrange concerts… it’s been very difficult … it’s a huge financial investment for people to get us over there.” Thankfully, now that the band has local distribution via the Australian label Lost & Lonesome (run by ex-Lucksmith Mark Monnone) things have finally come together, and based on recent live reviews, Antipodean fans are in for a treat.
The Wedding Present are playing a series of themed gigs in Australia – George Best in its entirety in some cities, and The Hit Parade in others, although given it’s their first trip to New Zealand, Kiwi fans can expect more of a broad career overview at the Auckland and Wellington shows. Given the huge nostalgia for the music of the 80s and 90s right now – with so many bands reforming solely to tour – I wonder how Gedge resolves the dichotomy of giving the fans what they want, whilst not being seen as cynically milking the nostalgia circuit. “It’s a tricky one really … obviously we are playing our old albums live as part of the set … there is an element of nostalgia to it, and when the idea was first suggested to me I was quite against it for that reason. As an artist you want to look forward, and look at new songs and the next album, rather than harking back to an old one, but I was persuaded by everyone else really – friends, fans, people in the band … to my surprise I find it quite interesting – it’s a surreal process to go back 20 years and reanalyse and reinvent those songs.” Given the breadth of Gedge’s catalogue, he’s finding the band revisiting songs which haven’t been played live in decades, or in a few cases, ever.
David has always been something of a pop music scholar, and the Wedding Present have covered a wide range of songs from across the musical spectrum – including Pavement’s “Box Elder” (from well before Pavement were a hip band to name drop), and also The Jean Paul Sartre Experence’s “Mothers”. I ask David if there are any new bands inspiring him right now. “I think this century really, any bands I hear always remind me of previous bands – OK, you’ve been listening to The Pixies, or Joy Division, or 70s punk, or disco. The first time I heard Sonic Youth, or The Pixies, they immediately sounded like nothing I’ve heard before. I hear bands now, and they sound exactly like other bands, the same guitar, the same sound, the same singer.” So is there anything interesting happening, musically, right now? “The only innovation I see in popular music is basically in the way it’s delivered, or recorded, or marketed. Youtube is interesting, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify … it’s all very interesting and you think, oh, you can do that now. The actual music you hear through these media … it sounds like 1989.”
So what can NZd expect from their inaugural Wedding Present shows? I’ll let Gedge have the final word. “We’re a live band – if you’ve listened to our records you’ll know we don’t rely on studio production. It’s traditional rock n roll – guitar, bass and drums and I like to keep it that way. It’s simple and powerful, and there’s a certain magic to that. Being in a room with people playing that energetic, primitive kind of music. It just works.” Hopefully it’ll sound exactly like 1989.
THE WEDDING PRESENT play two NZ dates this month
Kings Arms 21 Feb
SFBH 23 Feb