The Wedding Present – Singles 1995-97

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

I don’t understand the single. It’s a vestige of a long-gone era. Long live the album. Bands should just wait until they have enough songs for a proper album, and if they have songs left over or songs that they didn’t deem good enough? Well, they can put those on later albums. No one’s going to listen to me, of course, and while I appreciate that eventually some record company comes in to make money off the resulting compilation, usually that compilation is poorly handled.

What I Think of This Album

This is a confusing hodgepodge (big fucking surprise), and while it doesn’t necessarily suffer for it, a listener may be robbed of a better experience because of it. The centerpiece of the compilation is the clever Mini album, which was in fact a mini-album of 6 songs. It was also a Mini album in that, in keeping with its British namesake, each of those songs was somehow automobile-themed:  “Drive;” “Love Machine;” “Go, Man, Go”; “Mercury;” “Convertible;” and “Sports Car.” How could the record company could bury this charming exercise in the middle of a comp? Following the Mini album are four songs from the “2, 3, Go” single as well as the five songs from the “Montreal” single. And serving as amuse-bouche of sorts to Mini are the A and B sides of the “Sucker” single; the “Jet Girl” rarity; and a contribution to a Tom Waits covers album. Among the various B-sides are acoustic versions of other songs on this same album, and two live tracks of songs from George Best and Bizarro.

The odd and angular “Sucker” barely sounds like the Wedding Present, and more like a Fall outtake. It’s not bad, it’s just disposable. The same is true, unfortunately, of the cover of Butterglory’s “Waiting On the Guns.” This is a very poor start to a very good album, but things improve dramatically with “Jet Girl,” which sounds like it came from the Watusi sessions. Key to its appeal are Gedge’s excellent lyrics, as well as the harmony vocals from Jayne Lockey, who sings on all songs and plays bass on some of them. The mind-blowing cover of Tom Waits’s “Red Shoes By the Drugstore” is gritty and menacing, with a bass line so aggressively taunting that it might as well pull your pants down and laugh at you.

This brings us to the amazing Mini album portion of the comp, a resounding success mostly because Gedge is at the top of his game, going all in on the automobile metaphors. The music, however, cannot be overlooked. “Drive,” in fact, features a high-octane distorted guitar part. “Love Machine” has lovely background vocals and Gedge sounds appropriately anguished, as the band bashes about in midtempo (with a nice, subdued instrumental passage). “Go, Man, Go” is touching, with a muscular groove serving as the backdrop to a great vocal melody. A Seamonsters-like crawl dominates (most of) “Mercury,” which is only 26 layers of distortion away from having been on that album. The wittiest number is “Convertible,” in which Gedge seeks to seduce a new conquest despite already being attached (“Oh yes, her / I’m still with her / But I guess I’m always convertible / Just flick the switch and I’m yours”), only to be shot down by Lockey’s character:  “Yeah, you were just saying . . . / But I’m afraid you’re not staying / Because I’m not as naive / As you believe.” A warm organ, layered male and female harmonies, and sprightly drumming make this one of the best songs of the Wedding Present’s career, and definitely of the back half of their classic period. Drummer Simon Smith flexes his muscles on “Sports Car,” and likewise someone (Darren Belk, I guess) does a fine impersonation of Seamonsters-era Peter Solowka.

“2, 3, Go” is, oddly, also automobile-centric, and pretty good, at least in the chorus. The xylophone/vibes on the acoustic version of “Jet Girl” are giddily adorable. The harmony-threaded rave-up “Up” is a nice little gem. Gedge delivers one of his best ballads with the vulnerable and sorrowful “Montreal.” Lockey sings lead on the acoustic version of “Sports Car,” working an effective transformation. There is an exciting enthusiasm to “Project Cenzo” that does not quite manage to steamroll concerns about the lackluster songwriting. The cover of the Cheers theme song – yes, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – is entertaining once. And I certainly will never turn down a live version of “Brassneck.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Convertible” races straight down the dragstrip of my heart.

Release Date

October, 1999

The Cover Art

This is a neat, cotton candy abstraction, and certainly unusual for a record company compilation. I also like the superimposition of the text and fonts – it has a very 4AD/v23 feel. Where the record company did skimp was on the booklet. The liner notes on the inside are printed (if I can use that word) in verrrrrrrrrrrrry faint white ink on a black background and are essentially invisible. I could no more tell you who designed this cover than I could traverse the Sahara on rollerblades.

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 ↑