The Wedding Present – Bizarro

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

The Wedding Present is the rare band who changed up their sound a lot and I stuck with them. Part of it was just the overriding strength of David Gedge’s songwriting, but also, the fact is each evolution just worked for me (with the shift at Watusi being by far the least successful). Jangly guitars turning into thick distorted guitars, sometimes with piston-fired strumming and sometimes with just sheets of texture – that’s going to get me every time. I should note that one path I did not follow the band down was an early compilation album – sandwiched between George Best and this one – of Ukrainian folk songs, sung in Ukrainian (by guest vocalist Len Liggins).

What I Think of This Album

This is a largely transitional album that nonetheless succeeds on its own merits; the fact that you can listen to it in light of successor Seamonsters and hear where that album’s dark, dense sounds came from is just gravy for us rock nerds. On Bizarro, the band swaps some jangle for distortion and remove all restraints from drummer Simon Smith, and, while they still mostly play at amphetamine speeds, they explore dynamics and texture a little, and the songs start to stretch out more than they did on George Best. And if anything, Gedge’s voice has gotten gruffer, as he spits out lyrics over the now louder songs.

The US version of the album is a bit of a mess sequentially, inserting a Steve Albini re-recording of “Brassneck” and its four B-sides right before the final track. Still, those extra songs are well worth the confusion. The original version of “Brassneck” kicks things off with a thrilling, chrome-plated, descending riff and then Smith starts battering his kit while Gedge lays into his subject (“I just decided I don’t trust you anymore”) before relenting in the most humiliating way (“If you don’t object / Keep writing to me / Just don’t forget / You ever knew me”); the song takes some room to breathe around the three minute mark and the ensuing tom rolls as it gathers steam again are the foot stomps of the Greek god of indie. The appropriately named “Crushed” follows, with Smith unleashing another thunderstorm with his sticks; there aren’t any credits on my album but I believe Amelia Fletcher (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly) is singing harmony here. The relatively delicate “No” finds the band doing a bit more guitar exploration than usual, with a lengthy and driving instrumental section. “Thanks” is a bit of a throwback to the early days, as far as Gedge’s vocals and the melody go, though with the newly adopted tougher guitar sound.

JFK, Jacqueline Bouvier, Aristotle Onassis, and Lee Harvey Oswald appear to populate the odd “Kennedy,” which for all the head-scratching the lyrics generate, is still a hell of a song, with a blur of strums, pneumatic-drill drumming, and a great, menacing bass riff. The lengthy jam is a lethal snowstorm of guitar lines and relentless drum pounding. The band adopts a very VU-inspired drone approach on “What Have I Said Now?” – another track that almost could have come from George Best – with Gedge unsuccessfully trying to explain his wandering eye (“I’m not being unfair / Okay I am, but who cares?”); again, there is a cool, lengthy instrumental portion. “Granadaland” is nothing special – not bad but not memorable either. “Bewitched” definitely points to the slower songs that were coming on Seamonsters, all coiled aggression and the occasional laceration by barbed guitars; the dynamics on this track are really impressive and add a welcome dimension to the Wedding Present’s sound. Even more eye-opening, though, is the over-nine-minute masterstroke of “Take Me!,” on which Gedge can barely be heard but the only lyrics that matter are “Take me, I’m yours / We may never have this chance again.” As for the music, the band whips up a steel wool maelstrom that leaves broken-heart-shaped gouges in the freshly shorn landscape.

The Albini-produced tracks are pretty great (and again, significant because they led to the eventual perfect collaboration on Seamonsters). His version of “Brassneck” has a rawer guitar sound, and the drums are way high in the mix; I prefer it to the original. “Box Elder, MO” is a cover of a song by then-unknown Pavement. And “Don’t Talk, Just Kiss” is another stunner, with its urgent message, shifting rhythms, and excellent lead guitar; Gedge’s lyrics are predictably outrageous (“Look, if you really loved him / I don’t think you’d be here now” . . . “Everybody lies about this / don’t talk, just kiss”). For any other band, this album might have been a career high point, but the Wedding Present wasn’t done yet. Sometimes overlooked, this is an amazing recording.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Take Me!” is fucking amazing.

Release Date

October 1989

The Cover Art

Yes! Mysterious, violent, angsty, ugly, and raw. This is the perfect art for this album.

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