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4.0 out of 5 stars The Grateful Dead Of Indie Make Another Fantastic Album!, 12 Jun 2008
This review is from: El Rey (Audio CD)
With The Wedding Present becoming a cottage industry, and Gedge having emigrated, of all places, to LA, this peculiarly Northern, Yorkshire band have somehow become something else. Something they never intended to be. With Steve Albini back at the controls, "El Rey" should be, and sounds like, on paper at least, a return to the longstanding fan favourite that is "Seamonsters". Unfortunately, its no such thing. "Seamonsters" is a fabulous sincere wrench of a record that is 90's Indie's "No Jacket Required". "El Rey" is a occasionally flippant, often gritty thing that is reminiscent of a mature "Seamonsters", a reflective, measured take upon the 1990 template where heartbreak is no longer on the agenda but the years have battered idealism into submission.

It opens with a cursory instrumental intro, and "Santa Ana Winds" - which is yet another brilliant Wedding Present song that sounds exactly like everything they've ever recorded since 1992, all feedback, crawling guitars, growled vocals, and a catchy, disillusioned vocal that sounds like a depressed X-Factor candidate, performed by a poet's Saturday band. Like the rest of the album its both insightful, funny, and obviously the work of a highly Indie do-it-yourself mindset : and the best thing The Weddoes have done - apart from "Interstate 5" - since 1990. It's followed with "Spiderman In Hollywood", which is lyrically possibly one of the most humorous things David Gedge has ever commited to disc, being about the strange, Orwellian doublethink of living in Hollywood, seeing them making Spiderman Movies, and finding it all utterly so normal that you can mistake the actor in the Spidey suit for The Real Thing.

"Soup" is the silliest song that The Weddoes have yet done. As if, someone had put together every Wedding Present cliché and hallmark, and put them all in one place at one time. "No Soup For You! No Soup For You!"Gedge half-yells, whilst behind him, a wall of guitars is set to `Industrial Strength Squeal' and the rhythm section sounds like a wardrobe falling down the stairs. It's both an utterly average Wedding Present song and their worst moment yet, as it sounds as if they are becoming a parody of themselves : an indie Rolling Stones with an ever changing selection of backing players : the concept of The Wedding Present is the most permanent thing about it, with the band itself being mere employees of Gedge's Coronation-Street Dramas.

And then "Palisades" comes on, and the analysis is reduced to posturing by the emotional versimilitude of Gedge facing the life of a divorced middle-aged man whose friends have all grown up and old and married as he ponders if it is worth staying in a moribund relationship as she doesn't love him anymore. Or should he cut free to the inevitable poverty and loneliness that will entail? The flipside, the subsequent response, is the following track "The Trouble With Men", two sides of the same conversation

Overall, "El Rey" is an album made out of habit : the forgettable "Boo Boo" is a poor title for an even worse song, but also, Gedge's swansong. The final song is "Swingers", where Gedge - previously the only constant throughout their 22 years - practically absents himself as only an ethereal guitar line whilst the bands bassist takes the first female vocal in their career and sees the album out of a piece of bitter-sweet whimsy that would have been well served as a closing track on a latter-years Velvet Underground album. "El Rey" is by no means a bad record - a consistent and solid statement from the group with plenty of memorable song writing and melodic strengths that sees The Wedding Present grow roots as the entrenched, indestructible indie Grateful Dead of Yorkshire
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Mr. M. A. Reed
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Location: Argleton, GB

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