The Wedding Present – Watusi

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 7)

This was the start of the end for me with the Wedding Present. David Gedge was now the only original member left (though, critically, Simon Smith was still behind the kit) and the band’s sound evolved yet again. They managed one more worthwhile release after this before Gedge turned his attention to Cinerama, before eventually reviving the Wedding Present name. I listened to some of those post-Cinerama albums but the magic was gone.

What I Think of This Album

Watusi was another left turn for the band – a successful one and almost as satisfying as the developments from George Best through Seamonsters. It still sounds like the Wedding Present, as Gedge’s voice is unmistakable and his lyrical concerns are constant, but credit the band for taking a style and making it work for them. This time, there is more space in the arrangements, so while Smith still bashes away and the familiar distorted sound envelops most of the guitars, the songs feel lighter.

The Weddoes cycle through time signature and feel shifts on the herky-jerky “So Long, Baby,” with Gedge sounding sardonic and spent. “Click Click” benefits from Heather Lewis’s (Beat Happening) background vocals, as Gedge gleefully details his obsession. The Wedding Present gives us their most joyous song ever in the delightful “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah,” with producer Steve Fisk’s (who has worked with the Screaming Trees, Nirvana, the Afghan Whigs, and the Reverend Horton Heat) organ adding an element of absurdity. Rhythm is king again on the stop/start and enjoyable “Let Him Have It.” If “Gazebo” had been slathered in distortion and feedback and girded by louder drums, it could have easily fit on “Seamonsters.” The only really duff track here is “Shake It,” on which bassist Darrin Belk sings lead – it’s very weird to hear someone other than Gedge sing a Wedding Present song, and I am unsure why Belk was given this opportunity, which he does not do much with. There is an unusual delicacy to “Spangle,” with organ and rim clicks; this is the hidden highlight of the album. The juddering “It’s a Gas” doesn’t work quite as well. The spindly, rotating “Swimming Pools, Movie Stars” is excellent, however, with a great dive-bombing lead guitar part and an outstanding vocal from Gedge. The acoustic “Big Rat” (um, wut?) also packs a surprise, with a trombone part from Greg Powers, as Gedge sort of apologizes for an affair. Gedge tries on a falsetto on the Velvets-inspired “Catwoman;” the strumming drone the band kicks up – in two different forms, with some excellent dissonance starting at around 5:30 – is pleasantly mesmerizing and over too soon at just over seven minutes. If you ever wanted to hear what the Wedding Present cosplaying as the Ventures would sound like, well, you can find out on “Hot Pants.” This album has the most ridiculous song titles of any Wedding Present offering.

Potpourri:  Carrie Akre of Hammerbox and Goodness also contributes vocals on a couple of tracks. Fisk had been in instrumental band Pell Mell, whom the Wedding Present covered on the Singles 1989-1991 collection, and has recorded with the Halo Benders.

The Best Thing About This Album

A lot to choose from here, but I am going with “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” for its irresistible exuberance.

Release Date

September 1994

The Cover Art

Very. Cool. It doesn’t seem like a Wedding Present cover, but it’s watermelon charms work on me. I dig the new logo, the blurred minimalist boombox, and the font for the title. The graphic design credit is simply “Legend” with a photography credit for Peter Thorpe. This is a particularly shitty quality image, but the best one I could dig up.

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