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Break-up breakdowns
David Gedge returns to the Wedding Present

The Wedding Present, a Britpop band who were often forgotten on this side of the Atlantic even as they were scoring hit single after hit single in England, spent the late í80s and early í90s crafting morose pop songs about relationships gone awry. The Leeds-bred group were always a vehicle for singer-songwriter David Gedge, late of Cinerama and the only constant in the Wedding Presentís ever-shifting line-up. He had a way of fixating on the intricacies of intense jealousy, getting dumped, making an ass of oneself, and leaving embarrassing messages on a loverís answering machine.

Not much has changed in that regard. Take Fountain (Manifesto) picks up right where Gedge left off before forming Cinerama, with lingering vocal melodies, fierce drumming, and guitars that range from thick and soaring to clean and jangly. Gedge says he didnít resurrect the band, who play downstairs at the Middle East next Thursday, just to play the old tunes. "Itís more of a case of carrying on where we left off. I wouldnít want the Wedding Present to re-form anyways, because there have been so many of them. People have been enjoying the new stuff as much as the old. It hasnít been like boring boring boring and then we play an old song and itís ĎYay!í and then itís back to being bored again. I think people generally accept what we are doing."

A typical Wedding Present track fits in somewhere between the literate, anthemic, mildly perturbed pop of the Smiths and the quirkier guitar rock of the Pixies. But with each album, Gedge seems to put a new spin on his trusty formula. Bizarro (Manifesto, 1989) is wound tight with a heavy rhythmic groove; the Steve AlbiniĖproduced Seamonsters (Manifesto, 1991) is an ambitious starry-eyed epic. In 1992, at the apex of their career, the band released a seven-inch single every month in England. The A-sides were all original tunes; the B-sides were all covers, including the theme from Twin Peaks, Altered Imagesí "Think That It Might," and the Monkeesí "Pleasant Valley Sunday." All 12 charted in Britain, equaling Elvis Presleyís record for most hits in a year. (Theyíre available stateside on the Manifesto CDs Hit Parade 1 and 2.)

Several spotty albums with a revolving cast of backing musicians followed. "Sometimes, you realize that a person in the band is not working and you have to get rid of them," Gedge explains. "That has happened a couple of times. Other times, people have actually wanted to go. I think itís partly because they thought theyíd enjoy being in a rock group, traveling the world, and playing music ó but after a few years, theyíd start to miss their girlfriends, and itís quite hard work. Itís not just 90 minutes on stage. But I think thatís been the strength of the band. I donít regret that people have come and gone, because it means that every once in a while you have someone coming along with new input."

Eight years ago, Gedge closed down the Wedding Present and immersed himself in Cinerama, where he drew on the alluring sounds of movie scores by composers like John Barry and Ennio Morricone. But after his girlfriend and collaborator in Cinerama, Sally Murrell, left the band, he found himself with a familiar guitar/bass/drums line-up and the sound drifted back toward the Wedding Present. The one constant in both bands has always been the lyrics. "I tell people that Iím generally interested in relationships. But I think Iím a little bit obsessed. Iím always fascinated by what people say to each other, and especially in situations where itís stressful, like the beginning of a relationship or the end. I think itís the perfect subject matter for pop music."

Indeed, the new album is at least partly inspired by Gedgeís break-up with Murrell ó itís a sophisticated Britpop disc that finds the singer wearing his heart on his sleeve. "Interstate 5" is buoyed by the kind of pounding beat that was typical of early-í90s Wedding Present; "Larryís" strips down to voice and spare guitar for a particularly melancholy ballad. "Donít Touch That Dial" sports the same soft/loud/soft/loud arrangement that got the band compared with the Pixies. Thereís nothing here to shock long-time Gedge fans, only the same kind of magic that he worked with the Wedding Present more than a decade ago.

The Wedding Present perform next Thursday, April 28, downstairs at the Middle East, 480 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call (617) 864-EAST.

Issue Date: April 22 - 28, 2005
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