The Wedding Present at Subterania 21/2/90

I think I picked the right time to become slightly obsessed with The Wedding Present. There was quite a bit going on to keep me occupied. In February they released ‘Brassneck’ as a single. Interestingly though it wasn’t the version from the Bizarro album that had been released the previous October. The group had rerecorded it with legendary engineer Steve Albini. I dutifully picked it up the morning it was released and headed home to give it a listen.

Well, I thought the album version of ‘Brassneck’ was a great song, with it’s pounding drums, gruff vocals and guitar riff. This new version managed to improve significantly on the original, something that I didn’t think possible. With it’s harsher more aggressive sound, darker growling guitars and angrier vocals it sounded incredible. It was much closer to their live sound. Then there was that overdriven piercing guitar part that comes in over the quiet acoustic guitar. Perfect.

There were three other songs to listen to, little did I know what was coming up next.

The next one up was ‘Don’t Talk Just Kiss’. It sounded incredible, that same guitar sound building as it approached the chorus. As the song hit the chorus suddenly the tempo changed dramatically and it went berserk. Massive pounding drums, a distorted guitar line and David Gedge singing..

If you’re worried he’s so near you might as well go back
You were never here, oh, why would I say that?
Look, everybody lies about this
Don’t talk, just kiss!

This is followed by just a perfect mix of very loud drums, guitar and bass making an exquisite noise. Then everything drops out and one of the best bass sounds you’ll ever hear comes in and off we go again.

It’s an electrifying three minutes and twenty seconds and still one of my favourite Wedding Present songs.

Next up was ‘Gone’. There was no let up in the intensity, the same raw distorted sound. It starts with a great opening line

You could tell me how he saved the world again
Well I’m sorry but I just think he’s dead boring.

Listening to it now, as well as having the perfect guitar sound it’s the drums that make these songs. Albini gets them just right. Having another listen I think ‘Gone’ is quite underrated. It was always going to be difficult following ‘Brassneck’ and ‘Don’t Talk…’ but despite being short it’s got some great lines.

You always went too far
Now you’ve just gone

That’s quite a clever line don’t you think?

The (slightly) quieter part towards the end lulls you into a false sense of security as a ferocious guttural roar over some proper noise explodes at the end. Another one that leaves you quite breathless.

The last song was ‘Box Elder’ which I didn’t appreciate at the time was a Pavement cover. Pavement being one of those groups who I think I’d like but for whatever reason have passed me by. If anyone fancies pointing me in the direction of where I should start with them please be my guest.

It continued where the other songs left off, noisier and fuller than the original. It’s one of numerous songs covered by The Wedding Present over the years. I’m not sure there’s a song out there that couldn’t be improved by getting The Wedding Present to cover it.

So that was it, four incredible songs, a hint of the direction the group would come to take as they moved towards the ‘Seamonsters’ era.

‘Brassneck’ managed to get into the Top 40 so they made an appearance on Top of the Pops. If you look really closely you can see David Gedge’s lips move.

There was also an official video which is one of my favourites. The group remain immobile whilst dancers cavort around them. It’s worth watching purely for the part where Grapper is picked up by one of the dancers and struggles to keep a straight face.

They were touring a lot around this time and clocked up sixty-four gigs during 1990. It won’t come as a surprise that when they announced gigs at the Subterania I bagged myself a ticket.

This small venue was hidden away under the Westway in Notting Hill, not the easiest place to find if you’ve never been there before. What was great about it was it’s size, I always think The Wedding Present work best in more intimate surroundings.

This was the last night of a three night run at the Subterania. I’ve been unable to track down a set-list but I think it was a Bizarro themed set. I do recall it was a particularly hot and sweaty night. It goes without saying that it was a great evening as they’ve all been over the years.

I have however found a picture of one of the gigs in the unauthorised Wedding Present biography ‘Thank Yer, Very Glad’. It gives an idea of how hot it was. Maybe I should have followed David Gedge’s lead and worn some shorts.

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