The Wedding Present – Seamonsters

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I am not a fan of Top Ten lists or Desert Island Discs or rankings. I think things become arbitrary very quickly, and I defy you to legitimately defend your #5 pick over your #6 pick or to meaningfully distinguish between #43 and #44 (or between #17 and #44, for that matter). NONETHELESS . . . this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I recall a difficult work day where I listened to it on repeat for 8 full hours (and I believe it was the only thing that kept me from kicking people in the throat). I could and will never tire of this. It sends me reeling every time I listen to it. The Wedding Present truly delivered a gift with this set of songs.

What I Think of This Album

I sometimes like to indulge my imagination and picture the scene outside of Pachyderm Recording Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota at the conclusion of the Seamonsters sessions. I envision, out by the dumpsters, a large pyramid of smoldering amplifiers and split drum heads, with some broken drumsticks poking out here and there, and the confetti of blunted picks on the pavement. A technician stands just outside the door, surveying the ruined gear. She hugs her coat tighter as she shivers, gives a few nods in the direction of the mound, and then turns and reenters the building.

Give all the credit in the world to Steve Albini for capturing the sounds of raw feelings, not through simple volume and noise (though there is plenty of both), but with dynamics (there are, in fact, acoustic guitars on here), texture, and a surprisingly deliberate pace (these songs are considerably slower than what the Wedding Present had offered before). For his part, David Gedge had earlier turned to Albini to work on the “Brassneck” rerecording after hearing Surfer Rosa by the Pixies, figuring that Albini could honor the band’s pop instincts while still creating a harder sound.

The album is dark, dense, and cathartic – it’s a primal release of negative emotions. It’s also tuneful as hell. It’s what I could believe swimming in crude oil feels like. Relatedly, the aquatic title is appropriate, as the songs come at you like beasts from the deep – terrifying in their enormity, astonishing in their physiology, and utterly, fatally inescapable.

The tempo is established early on the dangerous “Dare,” in which Gedge tries to seduce a friend:  “Stay all night, I dare you / Look, who is going to know? / I can’t believe you want to go / Yes, alright I scare you / But you’re just as bad as me / I know where I’d rather be.” Eventually, Peter Solowka fires off a cresting, distorted lead while Simon Smith pummels away, but in short bursts, as the song ebbs and flows riding a sustained rapid strum, until they carry it to its thrilling, noisy conclusion.

“Dalliance” starts out quietly and ostensibly innocently, as much as a song directed at a lover who has ended a seven year affair and is returning to her husband can be innocent. The now-abandoned Gedge complains through layers of anguish:  “He’s got you back and that’s all he wants / A lot more than I’m left with / You don’t care now that you’re gone / But do you know how much I miss you? / It’s not fair, after all you’ve done / That I’m so . . . I still want to kiss you.” The coiled tension finally breaks at around 2:45, as Smith obliterates his kit and Solowka unleashes a drill-bit riff, and Gedge mournfully intones “I was yours for seven years / Is that what you call a dalliance?”

“Suck” is dripping in mystery, a crawling, unsettling cry of devotion and obsession, with machine gun bursts from Smith and more abrasive guitar work, including some wondrous rising slides. “Blonde” seems almost light by comparison to the surrounding tunes, with simple, syncopated drum hits and a delicate guitar part to open, and almost whispered lead vocal; such restraint soon gives way, though as Gedge painfully declares “yes, I was that naive” to the now-gone lover, with Smith once again battering away with abandon, and Solowka playing a shoegaze-inspired lead part.

“Rotterdam” begins with a reverb-heavy strum and a stomping beat, adding light washes of guitar partway through, and a bright, jaunty chord pattern after two minutes, and this all sounds very much like Bizarro-era Wedding Present. The bitter, angry, jealous “Lovenest” starts with a hum of feedback and at not even 1:30 Smith briefly loses his mind and gains about five extra arms, repeating this performance at roughly 2:15, and the song ends with a sustained burst of the same, with an extended coda of dying feedback. Emblematic of the album, this piece is basically a cleansing ritual, each drum hit knocking off flakes of hurt and the feedback carrying them far off into the distance.

Gedge takes the long way on “Corduroy,” using a childhood picture of himself “probably dressed in corduroy” as the device around which he addresses a straying lover; the song periodically features and ends with a building wave of distortion and machine shop drum fills. A blanket of darkness covers the mostly-acoustic “Carolyn,” which otherwise benefits from syncopated drumming and a masterful diving and swooping distorted lead part. Dynamics again feature on resentful, painterly “Heather” (the plant, not the name), by which time Smith must have been exhausted, Solowka bleeding from his ears, and Gedge an emotional wreck. Finally, “Octopussy” is notable for Smith’s slapping drum hits and Gedge’s tormented vocals.

As if to signal the break with their jangly past, when the song titles generally consisted of no fewer than fourteen words, each song title on this album is just one word long. Sadly, Solowka left after the recording of this album, to focus on Ukrainian-inspired music (the Wedding Present had actually released an album of such songs just after George Best). This is seriously one of greatest albums I’ve ever heard.

The Best Thing About This Album

This is probably my favorite drumming record ever.

Release Date

May 1991

The Cover Art

Another excellent album cover, this simple graphic conveys a feeling of being overwhelmed, lost, and disoriented, which is consistent with the music inside. The image here is too red – the background is actually black.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑