ARTIST: The Wedding Present
RELEASE: Going Going …
RELEASE DATE: Out Now (UK/Europe) & December 2nd (USA)
RECORD COMPANY: HHBTM Records
Jangle pop meets post-rock meets a bit of this and a bit of that on Going, Going…, the ninth album by well-rounded and deeply influential UK indie heavyweights The Wedding Present. A band (you should probably have a listen to if you haven’t) who have remained a prominent player in the UK indie/alternative scene through a revolving line up and heavy touring. Going, Going… returns to the bands 80’s roots of alt-rock influenced pop rock; instead this time they throw in a jangling indie rock tone that has remained popular on indie record labels from the late 80s onward. This enticing package of genres and sounds is pulled off by the band on most of the album; allowing the listener to fully relish in The Wedding Present and their mature and provoking music and songs.
While on the most part Going, Going… contains moody indie and pop tracks, it in fact opens with four beautiful and engaging instrumental tracks. ‘Kittery’ mixes ambience with the heavy tinge of alternative rock and the neat sound textures that the band were well-known for in the past. On ‘Greenland’ the band reach their most experimental heights; the enjoyable and interesting song is built around swaying percussion. Over the top of the beats are coordinates read out in a lo-fi style; all of this connects together with a slight aroma of musique concrète as the beats play slowly. ‘Marblehead’ is absolutely beautiful, mesmerizing and refreshing in its instrumentation; which consists of a couple of beautiful vocal passages backed with the slow rat-a-tat-tat of the drums and the harp like sounds of guitar. Similarly ‘Sprague’ uses an array of string instruments and the tapping of the piano to create a sound akin to a film score; flowing and tirelessly majestic. And then the band dive deep into their signature sound of indie, jangle pop in the form of ‘Two Bridges’; a neat pop rock tune that jumps and creates a enjoyably danceable melody. The lyrics connect with the music in a brilliant and smooth way with the melody connecting with the easy (very English) vocals and drumming. The awkward ballad like song ‘Little Silver’ follows; which has brilliant post-punk inspired heavy alternative rock passages of music that seem too good for the awkward and almost childlike vocal passages. The performances on ‘Little Silver’ showcase the brilliant and subtle talent of all the insturmental players involved. ‘Bear’ uses the modern English lyrical talents of the band to create a much more relaxed and full form song. The Wedding Present seem to build upon the slight ‘Little Silver’ to create a more impressive pop rock style ballad.
Just think of every single indie rock cliché you can and then tie them altogether…What would it look like? It would look and smell a lot like ‘Secretary’. This is the song that the listener is supposed to say ‘hahahha… Yes, hahaha, yes. That’s quite funny… Yes, I’ve seen what you’ve done there with the lyrics, hhahaha… Yeah, haha’ while listening to. But guess what? It evokes no such dialogue. Instead it’s actually quite cringey and ultimately, although there is more to say (much about the lyrics), I don’t feel like I need to elaborate on all of its annoying characteristics much more. ‘Birdsnest’ is mediocre but enjoyable. It should be noted of the fantastic vocal performance by the backing female vocalist especially, but ultimately the entire band showcase their talent, and more importantly they sound like they’re having fun doing so. ‘Kill Devil Hills’ features some great instrumentation but this steady craft of song writing is counterpointed by the tongue in cheek vocals and occasionally enjoyable lyrics. The band re-captures its sound on ‘Bells’, a fiery and much more heavy alternative rock tune where the percussion and the excellent mixing and production qualities present themselves clearly. The vocals are also back on a track that fits with the music. On ‘Fifty-Six’ this heaviness continues and is utilised to showcase the crunch of guitars and the sound textures the band feel much more comfortable playing. The outro especially fits well with the contextual elements of the song.
The slow and swaying sound of ‘Emporia’ allows the band to reach the quality of ballad that they have been dubiously searching for on the entire album. The vocals on the second half of the song are brilliant as is the wild and free post-rock like pace the music sets slowly for itself. The production shines through substantially to bring all instruments into the mix together and balancing them for a fantastic listening quality of music.
Interestingly enough, I entered into this album wondering what The Wedding Present would bring to the table. Would it be the classic post-punk influenced rock and pop that brought them many fans and acclaim during the 80’s? Would it be the indie rock sound that they carried through to impress audiences with? Or would it be something completely different? Well into the albums opening instrumentals, I was convinced it was the latter. But then… Then I knew that it was indie and indie and even more indie. What’s wrong with Indie music? Absolutely nothing… So what are you on about? Well, to be completely honest; I don’t know if The Wedding Present are still ‘into it’. They seem to be interested in this jangling, indie, alt-rock sound but they recycle bands that they probably historically influenced to create something that tastes generic, clean, not really that adventurous and at times very awkward. The album is by no means bad but I tend to wonder what the aim of the album was. And before you ask; no there doesn’t need to be an aim for any music. It just seems that the band ventured into a studio and recorded this and that, here and there and then threw it together without any sort of rewarding focus. Think what you may of this but I believe the instrumentals to be some of, perhaps the, best tracks on the album. But still, with this in mind, the fact that the album opens with post-rock, ambient, soaring cinematic tracks makes the album unbalanced and confusing. Perhaps the band believed these to be an album intro of sorts but they sit so well at the start that it sort of just sounds like a band recording a film score then deciding to write an indie album. Actually, it is almost like two different bands played on the album; which also adds to the fact that the album is almost overloaded with songs. The lyrics at times sound and read as if the band stuck to subjects explored within their back catalogue but tried to ‘modernise’ them. This doesn’t do them many favours and I wondered whether The Wedding Present were trying to be funny? Or is it telling a story? I don’t know… On such a topic; why doesn’t the backing vocalist sing more leads? On a couple of the tracks the current leads sound tired and insincerely awkward; overly Indie themed and at a contrast to the music.
This may read as if Going, Going… is a second rate album; but I must ensure you that it is not. The production is brilliant and actually is one of the best I’ve heard in a while; meaning the bands choice of studios and mixers came through for them greatly. The mixing is stellar across the album, as are the instrumental performances by every band member. And, just to remind you, there are some fantastic and catchy songs on this album… Which I recommend you listen to. The influence of The Wedding Present on indie music, and in fact UK music is great, and Going, Going… showcases elements of the bands song writing skills and fantastic talent. This is achieved through the immaculate production, neat mixing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.