The Wedding Present
The Bell House, Brooklyn, March 21
by Stephen Slaybaugh

There is some cliche about if you don’t know your past, you are doomed to repeat it, but in recent years, the explosion of indie rock reunions has made it clear that repeating one’s past can be a very lucrative endeavor. When David Gedge resurrected The Wedding Present name, it may not have been to dredge up the past (though there was a bit of that too), as the band re-emerged with new album in hand, but he has subsequently felt the gravitational pull of visiting past glories. After having toured playing their 1989 classic, Bizarro in 2010, the band is doing the full-album thing again, only this time performing what many (this writer included) consider to be their finest work, 1991’s Seamonsters.

But while there is no longer anything strange about a band touring on old material (hell, just look at The Pixies), it was somewhat odd in the case of The Wedding Present, as the day before this performance marked the release of the band’s new album, Valentina. Or maybe it really wasn’t so strange considering guitarist Graeme Ramsey, who cowrote most of the songs on the new record, has already moved on. Nevertheless, before the main course, we were treated to “Back a Bit... Stop,” “Meet Cute,” “Deer Caught in the Headlights” and “The Girl from the DDR” from the new record. But the best appetizers came from deeper in the band’s catalog. “Love Slave,” one of the monthly singles that charted in 1992, was typical Gedge, with any signs of tenderness squashed under a squall of guitars. “It’s a Gas,” from the decidedly poppy Watusi, also made it into the setlist, while Gedge even revisited Cinerama, his band in the interim between incarnations of The Wedding Present, with “Quick Before It Melts.”

Still, it was to hear Seamonsters that the nearly capacity crowd had come to The Bell House, and from the first quiet notes of “Dalliance,” the excitement was palpable. By the first time, Gedge groused, “I still want to kiss you,” the inherent drama in the song had become tangible. But if “Dalliance” is about tension, “Dare” is all about the release, an exhalation of roaring guitars and manic drumming. At one point, Gedge commented that it seemed weird to talk between songs during Seamonsters, and he was probably right. Intrinsic to this seminal album is its tightly wound dynamic, and admittedly some of that was lost in this take on it. There needed to be more volume in order to recreate the dramatic contrast of the record’s cadence, and I kept hoping Gedge would stomp on a pedal or turn a dial and blindside us with a wall of sound.

That didn’t happen, and otherwise, I had no complaints. Cuts like “Suck,” “Heather” and, of course, “Corduroy” found Gedge digging the dirt of long ago failed relationships amidst a nevertheless noisy enough maelstrom. His helping hands were no slouches either, with Layton doing a particularly applaudable job on the stuttering beats of “Octopussy.” The impending disappointment of the album’s end finally came with the last distorted notes of “Fleshworld,” but it was hard not to feel giddy at what we just heard. Gedge and company finished the night off with “Drive” and the little heard “You Should Always Keeps in Touch with Your Friends,” a single from 1986 full of the Weddoes’ signature manic jangle. It seemed fitting to delve even further back into the past for the perfect ending.