I made a rather unsettling discovery about myself today! Of my rather vast record / CD collection, I have only one track by THE WEDDING PRESENT!
Call myself a music enthusiast? I am quite obviously ‘incomplete.’
What surprises me most is that I have, split between two compilations, one hundred and fifteen tracks (over seven hours of music) attributed to John Peel favourites. OK – I can’t expect the curators of the great man’s legacy to fill all ‘tribute’ albums with THE WEDDING PRESENT, but my memory always associates one with the other and I simply assumed that I must have a decent selection of their music at my disposal.
But I don’t. So I can’t ‘compare and contrast’ ‘Valentina’ with any of the band’s previous seven studio albums. But the memory of listening in my bedroom to late-night tracks from the ‘George Best’ era remains, even though it is now some twenty-five years down the line.
As I recall THE WEDDING PRESENT, their music was always pretty fast and frenetic and in this regard ‘Valentina’ perhaps reflects the passage of time with a softer and more ‘mature’ sound. Certainly, the opening track ‘You’re Dead,’ evidences a more deliberate and mid-tempo pace than I remember. It slows and quietens, explodes and rumbles, threatens and comforts all in equal (ish) measure. Even with my age-impaired memory though, it’s easy to identify this as classic WEDDING PRESENT material.
‘You Jane,’ features more the almost trademark guitar rushes and David Gedge’s distinct, slightly off key / part spoken vocals, before ‘Meet Cute’ initially drops the pace again. Several times throughout the track you get the feeling it’s about to erupt, but this one’s a bit of a teaser as it rises and falls in intensity but never actually reaching top gear. Great song though.
Yeah – it’s really not until fourth track in, ‘Back A Bit … Stop,’ that I hear the heavily bass-propelled WEDDING PRESENT that I recollect from my youth. Brilliant! ‘Stop Thief!’ gives prominence to the bass again, this time it adds to the threatening drone of the track, with the (again synonymous) machine-gun rat-a-tat drumming stamping the commonly accepted WEDDING PRESENT I.D. all over the song.
‘The Girl From The D.D.R.’ is a bit of a ‘classic’ love-song, with Gedge’s wailed vocals giving way to a faster, more chipper guitar riff for he final half minute or so. ‘Deer Caught In The Headlights’ is back to what I’m sure everyone would term’ traditional’ WEDDING PRESENT material. Rumbling bass, staccato drums, and almost deadpan vocals feature as the song again lifts and drops in equal measure, culminating in a huge wall of sound that crashes out of existence only to be replaced for the final minute by some the gentle hum / whine of harmonium.
‘524 Fidelio’ takes on a more conventional structure as it slowly bounces along atop a ball of bass offset by shuffling drums and some gentle background female harmonies. Penultimate song ‘End Credits’ rocks like a good ‘un and as always, David Gedge’s voice reassures me that not everything in this modern world has to change just for the sheer hell of it. It really is quite remarkable in a way that despite David being the only original band member left, the sound and feel of the band basically remains as people like me remember.
Closing track ‘Mystery Date’ is my least favourite of the ten. It’s a bit too quiet and downbeat for the most part, and although it does threaten to expand and explode at various points, it doesn’t quite make it past the ‘expand’ phase before deflating again.
It’s a slightly disappointing end, for me at any rate, buy hey – the other nine tracks more than compensate.
I may be about twenty-five years behind the times, but at least I now know that my record collection is worthy of the tag. (But quite obviously I will not be considered ‘complete’ until I have added the ‘George Best’ album, on vinyl, to that said ‘collection.’)
(Released through the Scopitones label on 19th March 2012)
(9.5 / 10)