The world has changed an awful lot in the last 25 years but there are still a few constants that can be relied on. Since 1985, David Gedge, along with a variety of others – collectively known as The Wedding Present – has ploughed a frantic musical furrow encompassing speedy indie thrash with a few diversions along the way, namely Ukrainian folk music and the lush orchestral pop of side project Cinerama. While the line up has changed many times over the years, Gedge remains a totemic force, a walking emotional powerhouse that sings about love, lust, break-ups and revenge.
After 1987’s sparkling debut LP George Best and a slew of thrilling singles like the following year’s Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now, the band found themselves pursued by a major label and duly signed to RCA in 1989. In April the aforementioned collection of Ukrainian Peel Sessions became their first release for the new label while the band followed this up with a single in September, the fantastic mayhem that is Kennedy.
The following month – October – was a crucial one for The Wedding Present. Time to stand up with the big boys. Bizarro was the name of the second LP and on first listens it was obvious that the band had really toughened up their sound. Gone was the tinny indie jangle that made George Best so endearing and in its place were the furious rhythm guitars that showed a group really wanted to rock hard and fast. Reviews were mixed – 6/10 said the NME – while others shouted “sell-outs”.
I loved it from the moment I set it on the turntable and during that cold winter as the Berlin wall fell and the 1980s came to an end, Bizarro was a constant companion. It was a bruising and emotional listen which I, as a angst-ridden teenager who just started third level, could easily relate to. The high points were numerous with the heart-felt anguish of Brassneck and the plaintive and apologetic No stealing side one’s thunder. On the flip the sweetest treats were voyeuristic (Bewitched) and lusty (Take Me).
The band first visited these shores during the Halloween break of 1988 with a storming gig in McGonagles (tickets were a fiver) and a return to plug the new album was eagerly anticipated. After two postponements the gig eventually went ahead on 9 February 1990 at the SFX. It was a cracker, kicking off with new b-side Don’t Talk, Just Kiss and climaxing with the overwrought and regret-filled What Have I Said Now? This electric atmosphere was repeated the following year at the same venue when they came back to promote their triumphant third LP, the Albini-produced Seamonsters.
Twenty one years have elapsed since Bizarro charged out of my speakers on that rainy October evening. David Gedge was still in his 20s, this year he just turned 50. However songs about falling in and out of love will never get old. For this reason I salute The Wedding Present, the band of my youth and the soundtrack to my coming of age. One can never have too much apple pie.
The Wedding Present play The Academy, Dublin on 26 November, Cyprus Avenue in Cork on 27 November and Belfast’s Stiff Kitten on 28 November. Support on all dates is provided by So Cow.