In terms of British rock bands, you don’t get much more eminent than The Wedding Present. Revered by all those who have heard their unmistakable sound, in terms of the British alternative boom of the 1980s and ’90s, they have remained one of the most influential and continue to inspire legions, a long 37 years after their formation.
Notably, since their inception in Leeds, The Wedding Present has been led by vocalist and guitarist David Gedge, who has remained the band’s only constant member, much like Robert Smith with The Cure. In short, without Gedge, there would be no Wedding Present. His northern drawl is iconic, and his witty but often dark lyricism is some of the best out there. Gedge is such a brilliant songwriter that the late champion of only the best music, John Peel, once quipped: “The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!”
That’s the thing about The Wedding Present. Gedge manages to be introspective but balances it out with his sardonic take on life, as well as blending in more surreal moments. He is equally as adept at the English language as Morrissey, and one would argue that he eclipses the former Smiths man in terms of talent.
The drama that Gedge imbues in his finest cuts is authentic, and when veering into the melodramatic, it’s tinged with a palpable sense of accuracy that we can all understand. Take the following lines from ‘Dalliance’, for instance: “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”.
Aside from lyrical mastery, the band are also one of the definitive British guitar bands of the past 40 years. In many ways, they set a precedent for all bands worth their salt moving forward, and there’s no surprise today that you can hear the busy, angular yet melodic sounds of Gedge and Co. colouring the music of the most recent post-punk wave. When listening to the Leeds band you understand exactly where the now-defunct Ought took some of their cues.
In fact, whilst we’re here, original guitarist Peter Solowka is highly underrated in the guitar world, which is genuinely confounding because his penchant for a riff is of the highest order. He and Gedge’s dovetailing guitars gave the band their edge, and the heady extended jams they deliver at the end of some of their finest songs can be attributed in part to Solowka and Gedge’s almost telepathic understanding. Check out the Peel Session version of ‘Take Me!’.
Given that The Wedding Present are so brilliant, today we’re listing their six definitive songs in the hope of giving new listeners a rounded account of their work. Expect only to see classics, as where else but to start?
The Wedding Present’s six definitive songs:
‘My Favourite Dress’ (1987)
Whether it be the album or the 7″ version, ‘My Favourite Dress’ is a classic, and one of the ultimate Wedding Present songs. If I had to choose, though, I would argue that the version on 1987’s George Best is the best iteration. It features all of what would become key facets of The Wedding Present’s artistry. Spiky guitars in the verses, melodic link-ups in the bridge, and some of Gedge’s best lyricism.
Who can forget the next set of lyrics that describe the narrator, who is presumably Gedge being let down?: “Uneaten meals / A lonely star / A welcome ride in a neighbour’s car / A long walk home / In the pouring rain / I fell asleep when you never came / Some rare delight in Manchester town / It took six hours before you let me down / To see it all in a drunken kiss / A stranger’s hand on my favourite dress.”
Originally released as the opener of the band’s second album, 1989’s Bizarro, like with many of The Wedding Present’s best-loved songs, ‘Brassneck’ has two versions, and with either, you cannot go wrong. Whether it be the album version, which was produced by Chris Allison or the 1990 Steve Albini version, which features more amped-up guitars, both are brilliant and hit you right in the musical sweet spot.
The groove is excellent, with drummer Simon Smith providing a thunderous, almost primal beat which focuses heavily on the toms, and it has you bobbing your head along in unison. Lyrically, Gedge shines again, with the chorus being one of his most memorable: “Brassneck, brassneck. / I just decided I don’t trust you anymore”.
‘Take Me!’ (1989)
No list of definitive Wedding Present songs would be complete without the indomitable ‘Take Me!’ from Bizarro. An upbeat adventure, clocking in at just over nine minutes long, it is perhaps the most exemplary reflection of The Wedding Present’s power when they jump into an extended jam. The song darts forward at breakneck speed, with Gedge’s short but anthemic chorus pulling you in and keeping you totally immersed.
Here we get one of the best moments of Gedge and Solowka dovetailing on their six-strings, creating a locomotive, cacophonous sound that was unmatched for the time. The band also managed to be loud without relying too heavily on distortion pedals, which is no mean feat.
Without a doubt, the end of the song is the best part, and you’re sure to press repeat instantly.
Another Bizarro cut, we couldn’t include ‘Take Me!’ and leave out its sister track, ‘Kennedy’. Very similar structurally and dynamically to ‘Take Me!’, ‘Kennedy’ is another upbeat number that races along at the speed of light. The guitars are relatively clean but link up to create one mega-noise that spins you around in a captivating climax, with all the colours and sensory delights of the late ’80s washing over you.
Gedge’s lyrics are also pretty hilarious on this cut, with the repeated line, “Lost your love of life? Too much apple pie”, endures in the collective memory.
Taken from 1991’s Seamonsters, ‘Dalliance’ is a slow burner, which saw the band get much darker than on their earlier cuts, thanks in part to the production of the most sought after producer around, and everybody’s favourite curmudgeon, Steve Albini. The roomy, atmospheric production did the band a world of good and elevated the darkness that had always tinged their music.
Gedge laments a former lover, who can best be described as unscrupulous. He compares himself to their current lover, who they’re also lying to, but typically, this doesn’t matter to the frontman, as he “still wants to” kiss his former flame.
For ‘Dalliance’, it’s as if Gedge is having a conversation with himself, and as it continues, his frustration grows, which bursts into the Slint-like middle section, where the fuzz-drenched guitars pierce through the mix to create a pulsating drone. It’s pure genius.
‘Blue Eyes’ (1992)
It was such a toss-up for the final entry. Whether it be a more recent cut or tracks such as ‘California’, I spent a fair while weighing up the options, as there were many. However, I eventually settled on the 1992 single ‘Blue Eyes’ as the climax is just exquisite.
‘Blue Eyes’ is one of the best examples of the band’s second guitarist, Paul Dorrington’s knack for writing emotive but straightforward riffs, and the way that he and Gedge‘s respective axes burst into life towards the end of the song is nothing but uplifting. There are flecks of Dinosaur Jr. here, and we love it.