Tag Archive | "The Wedding Present"

Top 10 – 1987

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Top 10 – 1987

Posted on 02 December 2017 by Dorian

This year is the 30th anniversary of 1987. This isn’t a year that typically gets identified as being a particularly important one for music, but it was an important one for this young indie fan. Aged 15 I’d just started to develop my own taste and, for the first time, had some income that I could use to buy records with.

One year after NME’s legendary C86 cassette we were starting to see bands from that “scene” bringing out albums and breaking (to some extent) into the mainstream. For me it was a wonderful time to discover music and I still own most of the records I purchased at that age.

This top 10 may not be the definitive best songs of 1987, brilliant records by The Smiths, Prince, Hüsker Dü, Julian Cope, Big Black, Sonic Youth, The Go-Betweens, Dinosaur Jr, New Order, The Pixies and more came out that year, but it is a reflection of my experience of music at the time.

10.  The Soup Dragons – Can’t Take No More

The Soup Dragons aren’t well-remembered, and when they are it is seldom for this song, but I have a great fondness for this record. The mix of British guitar jangle pop, and a fast paced fuzziness, is what defines this era for me and I think this is a bit of a lost classic.

9.  Pailhead – I Will Refuse

The partnership of former Minor Threat Ian MacKaye and Revolting Cock Al Jourgensen seems a bit of an odd one in retrospect, but together they produced a pretty amazing noise for a couple of EPs. This song is the best of the bunch. Play loud.

8.  The Dukes of the Stratosphere – You’re My Drug

I don’t know if it is true or apocryphal but the story goes that XTC were so out of fashion by the late 80s that even their records as a fictional 60s psychedelia band sold better than their “real” records. This song is so authentically produced that you could forgive someone for thinking they were a genuine lost act of the flower-power era.

7.  Age of Chance – Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Noise

A sound they called “sonic metal disco” and a penchant for cycling gear wasn’t enough to give the Age of Chance much of a career. However, their debut album was pretty unique and spawned some genuinely excellent singles. This is one of them.

 6.  Voice of the Beehive – I Say Nothing

This list is a bit of an (unintentional) “where are they now?” and Voice of the Beehive are another forgotten act. I think that this single was brilliant but I admit that them being my first ever gig may be a factor in this choice.

5.  The Sugarcubes – Birthday

I loved the Chart Show. I loved it most when the indie chart was the specialist chart for the week (oh, the disappointment of heavy metal or dance) and seeing this song in that chart was an eye opener. Even now I still have no idea exactly how the song is constructed as a variety of clashing melodies compete for attention behind Bjork’s unmistakable vocal performance.

4.  They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start

They Might Be Giants are too often dismissed as a comedy or novelty act. This assessment misses just what a creative and unique pop band they are. This is great and kick-started a long time love for the band.

3.  The Wedding Present – My Favourite Dress

The Wedding Present would be number 1 in an album chart for 1987, the album George Best is still a treasured part of my vinyl collection. There are so many great tracks that I could pick, but this single from the album just about takes pride of place.

2.  That Petrol Emotion – Genius Move

That Petrol Emotion are a band that deserve more of a place in musical history. Formed by The Undertones’ O’Neill brothers they released five excellent albums in a seven-year career. This single is among my favourites of their many excellent songs and gets the nod here as it is not available (to my knowledge) in any format. Spotify has a version on the band’s posthumous live album,  but nothing beats the original single which lives on via YouTube.

1. Faith No More – We Care A Lot

This song would have always been in this chart, but the recent sad death of Chuck Mosley and a nostalgia filled revisiting of the video may have pushed it up a place or two. It is a great single, completely unique, and worthy of a number 1 spot. RIP Chuck.

What songs would you pick as your best of 1987? If you are apoplectic that I haven’t selected ‘True Faith’, or have a love for something from Sinitta’s debut album, please post your choices below.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Dorian

Indietracks is one of the highlights of our musical calendar, and 2017 doesn’t look like it is going to buck the trend of friendly vibes, steam trains, owls and great music that we have come to expect over the years.

We have written about the festival many times in the past, so go here if you want a flavour of what to expect.

Indietracks 2017

The bands on the bill this year are the typical mix of new and old with some familiar faces alongside festival debutantes offering up a really strong line-up across the three days. The Tuts, The Wave Pictures and Endersbys Room have all been Neon Filler favourites at previous festivals, and there are dozens of acts we are less familiar with playing over the weekend.

Darren Hayman played a great set here last year and he is back again with Emma Kupa playing as the Hayman Kupa Band. Kupa is very busy over the weekend also appearing in Mammoth Penguins and Friends as well as being one of the festival organisers.

There are plenty of new bands to discover over the weekend with Luby Sparks, ME REX and Milk Crimes all having formed in the last couple of years. There are veterans playing too, with The Orchids and Milky Wimpshake adding a few years to the bill and Monkey Swallows The Universe reuniting 10 years since they last released an album.

Indietracks 2017 line up

(Clockwise) Cate Le Bon, The Tuts, The Wave Pictures, Monkey Swallows The Universe

The headliners are strong this with Martha bringing some lively North East power-pop to the stage on the Friday night, and Cate Le Bon closing the festival on the Sunday night with her distinctive “Television meets John Cale”  approach to songwriting.

It is The Wedding Present on the Saturday night that are the pick of the bunch for me, even though they are a band I get the opportunity to see in my home town several times a year. I remember picking up their debut album, George Best, 30 years ago aged just 15 and it remains one of my favourite records to this day. This is a band that, with their appearance on the legendary C86 cassette, helped to define what indie-guitar-pop was. David Gedge may be the only consistent member of the band, but his weary tales sound pretty good to this day, and their most recent release Going Going was one of their best.

Me and Gedge

Me and David Gedge in 2012

We spoke to some of the Indietracks team (Nat Hudson, Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen, Andy Hudson and Emma Kupa) to find out a bit more detail on what makes the festival tick.

Lots of festivals have come and gone over the years, with small festivals often disappearing. Indietracks is in its 11th year. What do you think is the secret to the festival’s success?

Beck: Without a doubt, I think it’s the atmosphere and community spirit. The festival has such a lovely, relaxed and friendly vibe and I’ve made so many friends there over the years. I can’t wait until July to catch up with everybody again!

Nat: I think it’s the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the sense of community. A lot of Indietracks goers come back every year, and it’s always wonderful to see so many friendly, familiar faces as well as new ones. I also think our mix of established and up and coming bands also attracts people – Indietracks is always a good opportunity to discover your next favourite band!

The Wedding Present were my introduction to indie pop 30 years ago. What was the point that you realised your love of the music?

Beck: I was a big fan of indiepop bands before I really knew what indiepop was! I found a couple of Field Mice records in a charity shop when I was about 15 and started to realise the wonders of Fortuna Pop after getting into Bearsuit and The Aisler’s Set. I used to run a clubnight in Manchester years ago where we’d play those bands alongside stuff like Dressy Bessy, Helen Love and Hefner. I don’t think I ever really understood that all these seemingly disparate bands fitted together under the umbrella of ‘indiepop’ before I started coming to Indietracks!

Nat: Like Beck, I was a fan of indiepop before I really knew what it was! As a student I was a huge fan of Hefner, Stars of Aviation, Marine Research, Belle and Sebastian and similar bands. I moved to London in 2004, met friends who were into similar music and ended up going to the How Does It Feel To Be Loved? club night. Through that I ended up discovering lots of new and old indiepop bands and eventually became involved with Indietracks.

Jas: Although music was always a big part of my life, I first discovered ‘indiepop’ by attending DIY clubnights and gigs at University. A bunch of my friends were involved with a society called Burn the Jukebox – which encompassed a variety of genres. I was always drawn to the more indie, electro, pop end of this. After University I ended up dating someone in a band, and that has been a great way of discovering bands by attending gigs, and of course that’s how I also discovered Indietracks.

You have some new faces on the Indietracks team this year. What are they bringing to the festival?

Nat: Myself, Andy and Emma Cooper are still part of the organising team, but this year we’ve also welcomed new members Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen and Emma Kupa. They’ve been in bands and have also been involved with organising the Sweet Revenge club night in Manchester and the Cambridge indiepop all-dayer, so have loads of experience of putting on indiepop events! They’re also all regular Indietracks goers, so know the festival and are really keen to help make it the best it can possibly be. We’re so lucky they volunteered to get involved – they’ve done so much of the work this year, and have brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to the team too!

Beck: Along with Jas and Emma, I’ve been a massive fan of Indietracks for years and I think that’s a really useful perspective that we bring to the organising team. We have a good sense of what people really love most about the festival and what new ideas might work well.

If you were put on the spot and had to pick your one must watch act this year who would that be?

Emma: Frankie Cosmos

Nat: Lucky Soul

Andy: Cate Le Bon

Beck: I think I’ll have to pick one of our international bands because you never know when they’ll be back in the UK – I’m really looking forward to Luby Sparks who are travelling all the way from Japan to play for us!

Jas: It’s difficult to pick one, and I often enjoy the smaller bands the most. However, The Wave Pictures have a lot to offer – they are an incredibly versatile band with lots of talent and a large back catalogue.

Words and interview by Dorian Rogers

Indietracks is on from the 28th to the 30th July at the Midlands railway Centre in Derbyshire. Go to www.indietracks.co.uk for more details and to buy tickets.

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by Dorian

We recently published our Top 20 Albums of 2016, but this only reflected a section of the amazing songs that came out this year.  There were great albums we missed, albums that just missed out and songs that came out on single this year. So, as a bit of an end of year bonus, here are the best songs of 2016 that didn’t feature in our end of year album list.

16. ESP Ohio – Royal Cyclopean

It wouldn’t be Neon Filler without a Robert Pollard track, and this horn driven gem from his latest collaboration with Doug Gillard is one of his best this year.

15. The Wedding Present – Rachel

There are rumours that this year’s Wedding Present album may be there last, if that is the case then they are finishing on something of a high.

14. Childish Bambino – Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover is a successful comic actor, the face of the young Lando Calrissian and a Grammy award-winning singer, sickeningly talented.

13. The Shins – Dead Alive

The Shins releasing a song that sounds like they could have recorded 15 years ago may not seem that exciting, unless you think early Shins is about as good as music gets. Which I do.

12. Allo Darlin’ – Hymn on the 45

Allo Darlin’ sadly called in at day in 2016, but just as they played their final shows they released one last single. A final document, if nothing else, of why they’ll be missed.

11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

Car Seat Headrest is the work of Will Toledo, this year’s bespectacled indie geek de jour. The album justifies the hype this time around.

10. The Avalanches – Subways

The new Avalanches album may not be much of a step forward given the huge gap between this and their debut recording, but there were enough good songs to make it worth a listen.

9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

The New York band have been releasing consistently great music since they broke through with Light Up Gold in 2012. The title track from their latest album shows them in almost subdued mode.

8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me

2016 was a bit of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen, her 4th LP getting a lot of attention and radio play. This track showcases as much fuzz-pop as folk and is a bit of a break from the softer country vibe she’s associated with.

7. Case/Lang/Veirs – Best Kept Secret

Three of the best vocalists in country-pop come together and, unsurprisingly, the results are great.

6. Okkervil River – Judy on the Street

Every two or three years Will Sheff’s band release an album and they all range from good to excellent. This track from Away is no exception to the rule.

5. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air

More than a quarter if a century in and Teenage Fanclub can still produce some of the best melodic guitar pop around.

4. Girl Ray – Trouble

One of the best bands that we saw at Indietracks this year and one of the bands to watch out for in 2017.

3. Field Music – Disappointed

Due to its release at a busy time we sadly didn’t get round to reviewing Field Music’s excellent 2016 album Commontime. We still loved it though and can assure you it was a typically excellent release from the Brewis brothers. This was a single and one of the best tracks.

2. Luke Haines – Smash The System

Smash The System saw Haines revisit some of his previous themes, with a number of nods to his Baader Meinhof album. The Monkees references in this song are confusing but welcome.

1. Eyelids – Slow It Goes

Eyelids didn’t have a new album out in 2016, that is coming next year, but they did release this song and showcased what we can look forward to. Excellent video as well.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

Posted on 11 September 2015 by Dorian

Over the last decade films and TV shows about comic book heroes have become more and more popular. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and with the brilliant Daredevil TV show and the supremely entertaining Ant-Man movie 2015 is looking like a pretty good year.

Here at Neon Filler we’re big fans of comics, and it is hard to argue with Superheroes as being the predominant and most iconic images of the medium. Here, in celebration of our favourite spandex clad characters, we present the Top 10 songs about Superheroes.

10. The Wedding Present – Flame On

The Wedding Present are one of the only bands to have their own comic book, so this Watusi era b-side, with a Human Torch theme, is no surprise from Mr.Gedge.


9. XTC – That’s Really Super Supergirl

XTC (sort of) appear twice in this chart and this charming tune from Skylarking is their first appearance.


8. Guided By Voices – Matter Eater Lad

With thousands of Guided By Voices songs recorded it is inevitable that comic books get a mention, the choice of one of the more obscure DC characters fits the band to perfection.


7. The Clique – (I am) Superman

This 1969 track is better known as sung by REM nearly 20 years later and is the first appearance in our chart by the first superhero.


6. Wings – Magneto and Titanium Man

Who knew that Macca was a comic’s enthusiast that invited Jack Kirby to a Wings show? Not many people, and even less have heard this Venus and Mars era b-side about some iconic Marvel villains. Also a song that has a surprising (if passing) similarity to Belle and Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’.


5. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

The title track from Pollard’s latest solo album is not character-specific but still one of the best super-themed songs on record.


4. Darren Hayman – Spiderman beats Iron Man

One of the best songs from the excellent Essex Arms, and manages to reference a number of top-flight heroes as well as Top Trumps, which can only be a good thing.


3. The Dukes of the Stratosphere – Braniac’s Daughter

XTC’s psychedelic alter-egos make little sense with this tune about the super-villain’s progeny, but lots of great lines and references hide within.


2. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman

It is no surprise that Superman gets more references in song than other heroes (see also Laurie Anderson) and this track from Wayne and co. has to be the best.


1. The Trait – Nobody Loves The Hulk

Researching a post like this is fun in itself and also also helps discover some previously unheard tracks, from unheard-of artists. This 1969 garage track is brilliant from start to finish. “We don’t allow no green skinned people in here!” indeed.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham (May 30 – June 2, 2013)

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Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham (May 30 – June 2, 2013)

Posted on 03 June 2013 by Joe

It’s only rock n roll but I like it, especially if it’s rock n roll on the warmest day of the year so far, on Cheltenham racecourse surrounded by people old enough to know better wearing pink panther onesies and a sexual health lorry. What more could you want?

Main Stage

As this reviewer and photographer are past it and have no stamina, we opt for the one day option. It’s Saturday of the Wychwood Festival – here we are now, entertain us.

On arrival priority is given to breakfast/dinner/lunch, with all three combined in one hastily consumed stomach lining meal of rice, nachos, peas, mushroom risotto and chicken before overdosing on sunshine and alcohol.

First up we check out the (still, barely) living legend that is John Otway, who reduced everyone to fits of laughter with renditions of House of the Rising Sun, Blockbuster, his two ‘hit’ singles, Cor Baby That’s Really Free and Beware of the Flowers. If you’re not familiar with this rock n roll failure I suggest you acquaint yourself at the earliest opportunity. Where else can you get gymnastics, comedy guitars, audience participation and a version of The Osmonds’ hit  Crazy Horses on Theremin?

The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present

Afterwards I think we saw The Moulettes and then it was time for some abrasive guitar pop from the evergreen The Wedding Present, who blast away the cobwebs with a blistering set. Fantastic.

I hope you’ve all heard the latest Public Service Broadcasting album Inform – Educate, Entertain. Great isn’t it? Well, the eccentric duo, of multi-instrumentalist and Brains from Thunderbirds lookalike J Willgoose Esq, and  drummer Wrigglesworth, were next up. Between them they rocked the house, with Willgoose’s posh electronica knob twiddling among many highlights of their set.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

After spending four hours haggling over a psychedelic shirt (he wanted 20 quid, I offered him a very reasonable 15) we gravitated toward the big top marquee for a performance by The History of Apple Pie, perhaps one of the worst band names since Muse. Fear not though, despite their name they were fab, drawing on such reference points as Ride, Spiritualized and Lush as they delivered a great set of loose limbed shoe gaze that took me right back to those heady days of 1992 (excuse me while I put my rose tinted glasses on ). They whipped up a veritable tornado of sonic love. I’m going to e-mail them this week, however, to tell them how crap their name is; I think it’s my duty.

The History of Apple Pie

The History of Apple Pie

We then caught the tail end of Caravan Palace, and wish I had seen more of their techno barrage par excellence. It was with some trepidation that I waited for Saturday’s headliners, 1980s new romantic pop sensations and Sheffield’s finest, The Human League. I anticipated three numbers and buggering off to see someone else. Well, in the same way that I had to swallow my opinionated cobblers last year and finally concede that Dexy’s Midnight Runners appearance at the Greenman festival was bloody incredible, I have to admit that The Human League were totally ace. It was Kraftwerk on a budget, it was cheese, but the finest cheese you’ve ever tasted and it was fun with a capital F. Mirror Man, Love Action, Fascination are such great big pop singles, with Lebanon, Wonderful, Wonderful, and their crowning glory, Don’t you want me? all shone brightly tonight. They even did their first single Being Boiled, which was greedily fed upon by a joyous crowd, dancing badly on a rare warm English summers evening. It was the epitome of a festival ‘moment’ with respect to Phil Oakey and the girls.

Human League's Phil Oakey

Human League’s Phil Oakey

Afterwards we went backstage to collar Mr Oakey but sadly he couldn’t be found. I think perhaps he spotted me with my clipboard and sexual health questionnaire.

On Sunday morning when I woke up I had in my bag eight packets of pansy seeds, a pair of pink oven gloves, (unused), two country music cds, four bottles of environmentally friendly washing up liquid and a clipboard.

I can’t emphasize enough how much fun Wychwood is. It’s kid friendly, loony friendly, beer friendly. Go next year.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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At The Edge Of The Sea 2012

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At The Edge Of The Sea 2012

Posted on 28 August 2012 by Dorian

At The Edge Of The Sea is David Gedge’s pet project. His annual mini-festival, in its fourth year, that (alongside the Holmfirth sister event) allows him to put on his favourite bands, his friend’s bands and play two sets of his own. These sets, the first with Cinerama and the second with The Wedding Present, book-end seven hours of music in Brighton’s Concorde 2.

Cinerama

Cinerama

Arriving at the venue you are treated to a fez wearing saw band playing in the bar (a make-shift second stage for the afternoon). It is an interesting opening and one that certainly catches your attention, even if the music is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste.

Drink in hand and ready in the main stage area it isn’t long before “The Boy Gedge” (as John Peel affectionately referred to him) makes his first appearance with Cinerama. The short sweet set doesn’t go down well with everyone but suited me down to the ground. The widescreen pop sound and songs from their early releases reflect the original Cinerama feel, before they essentially morphed back into The Wedding Present. It feels like a part-time thing, the act only play at this event once a year, but it is a lovely start to proceedings. The members of the band will become more and more familiar as they crop up in multiple acts throughout the day.

The Evil Son

The Evil Son

Through the afternoon there is a real variety of music on show forcing you to switch quickly from stage to stage. The folk-prog of Das Fenster features a surprise appearance by former House of Love and Levitation guitarist Terry Bickers. The Evil Son feature members of Cinerama and the Wedding Present and play a nice early 90s influence indie-rock sound that reminds me of the (largely forgotten) Drop Nineteens. Yaz Bebek (complete with band members rushing straight from the other stage) play an enjoyable and unusual jazzy Turkish pop set.

The bands throughout the day confirm Gedge’s later statement that probably nobody but him would like every band that played, but I would be surprised if anyone didn’t find something to like and nothing was less than interesting.

Nightmare Air

Nightmare Air

Anyone wanting to hear something that little bit noisier would have been delighted by Nightmare Air, a band playing their first ever gigs outside the US. This three piece had a huge sound and the three boards of effects peddles showed that this band was all about the electric guitar. The set was a lot of fun and the overall sound was brilliantly overblown. The only downside (and an inherent risk at a music festival) was that the sound mix was not right, with the vocals far too loud. This made them sound cartoonish when they should have been part of the wall of sound.  Not a band I imagine listening to in my living room, but a band I would definitely recommend seeing live on stage.

CUD

CUD

Former Gene front-man Martin Rossiter’s set is probably the only bad bit of organisation all day, proving far too popular for the cramped bar stage. Unable to squeeze in I take the time to peruse the well stocked merch table, and flick through the “Tales From The Wedding Present” comic that is on sale. I even get the opportunity to chat to David Gedge himself, who proves to be a friendly and accommodating figure, clearly enjoying the day as much as the punters. Rossiter sounds in good voice and goes down very well with the crowd that made it in to see him.

Next on the main stage is Cud, and the reunited Leeds act play a set that goes down a storm with a very partisan crowd. I was not a big fan of the band first time round, and they don’t play a style of music that I love, but they play an undeniably great set. The performance is good, the crowd is enthused and the song choices are faultless – all the hits are accounted for with ‘Rich and Strange’ and ‘Only a Prawn in Whitby’ sounding pretty good. A lot of fun.

The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present

Even with all that has come before, this event is all about The Wedding Present and the venue is packed when they take the stage. The first few songs are some seldom played tracks including b-sides, a track from Saturnalia and the brilliant ‘Love Machine’ from mini. This short warm-up completed the main event begins, a full run-through of the 1991 Steve Albini recorded classic Seamonsters.

This is an album that I have listened to on and off for 21 years, and it sounds brilliant on stage in 2012. The wall of bass, drums and guitars blending perfectly with Gedge’s rough edged vocals and tales of troubled romance. ‘Dalliance’ is the perfect opening track and the album flows perfectly from there-on-in up to the epic conclusion with ‘Octopussy’. The crowd response is brilliant and I haven’t heard that much enthiusiastic singing along at a gig in years, especially with the wonderful ‘Dare’.

Once the album set is finished there is only enough time to play one more track, the evergreen ‘You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends’. It is a prefect closer and the crowd are fully aware when the band leaves the stage that it is the end. This is The Wedding Present and they don’t play encores.

All in all this is a brilliant event, a bargain at £18, and one that I’ll happily attend next year. I’m already looking forward to hearing all the songs from the Hit Parade collection in 2013, and the following year the underrated Watusi.

Words by Dorian Rogers, pictures by Nic Newman.

To see more of Nic’s photographs from the day visit our Flickr gallery.

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Top Ten Great Songwriters- Part One

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Top Ten Great Songwriters- Part One

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Joe

What makes a good songwriter? For some it’s the ability to tell a good story, for others it’s a turn of phrase that succinctly captures a common emotion. For some. such as Andy Partridge, one of XTC’s chief songwriters, it is simply to draw inspiration from your own life and community.

In a  feature  in The Guardian in 2005 Partridge is quoted as saying:

“I can’t write mid-Atlantic airport lounge music. I can’t talk about my hot babe with her leather and whip or meeting my cocaine dealer. I like to write about what’s going on around the town.”

In a nutshell, he writes about what he knows. This frees his work from pretension and gives his lyrics genuine meaning. As the article later alludes, the example of Partridge puts the meaningless drivel of the likes of Coldplay to shame. Chris Martin needs to have a wander around town more like Partridge if he ever hopes to gain a song writing reputation to match his bank balance.

We’ve been having a good listen to the lyrics and construction of some of our favourite tracks recently and have decided to attempt one of our Top Tens looking at the art of the great songwriter and those whose lyrics inspire and amaze us. We’ve set some ground rules. They have to broadly fit into the indie or alternative musical world we cover, which unfortunately rules out Kate Bush. They also have to be an active song writer who is still releasing. This  rules out Partridge,  as XTC’s last album was more than a decade ago.

Andy Partridge

In our list we’ve some who not only write great lyrics but are expert song constructors. For some their best work is behind them but they are still plugging away. Meanwhile, for others they seemingly get better with age. Others in our list really give thought to the art of songwriting and take delight in helping fans and music lovers understand the process better.

We’ve also cheated a little. It is in fact a top 11; we couldn’t separate our top two choices so decided to give them equal first.  So with all that in mind here’s the first part of  our top ten (okay, its 11 really) song writers. To view part two of this list click here.

10. Darren Hayman

As singer and songwriter with 1990s act Hefner Darren Hayman already had a good reputation on the UK indie scene for producing strong lyrics and well worked songs. Good Heart, which made our Top Ten Tearjerkers list, is a perfect example of this. In this track Hayman tries and fails to convince his lover to stay with lines such as

You were just there, in the right place. You smooth out the wrinkles on my face

But arguably his best work has come in recent years, during a productive and purplest of patches that includes two albums about his native Essex (Pram Town, Essex Arms), contributions to the Vostok 5 space travel art and music project, bass playing for another great modern song writer Robert Rotifer in his band Rotifer, an album of piano ballads (Ship’s Piano) and his  January Songs project, where he wrote, released and recorded a song a day in January 2011. He is set to release an album about British lidos and Essex witch trials.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman at the Vostok 5 exhibition, 2011 (pic by Dorian Rogers)

It is his January  songs project that is perhaps his most impressive in terms of songwriting, in which he gave his audience a fascinating insight into the song writing process and came up with some superb lyrics and song writing that made a mockery of the short time he spent on them. I Know I Fucked Up, sung by Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris and My Dirty Widow are among our highlights.

We drove to Barcelona on the road along the coast
The sun got in my eyes, we careered side to side
and now all I hear is the knocking of her heels on my casket

If you see my dirty widow
Tell her it’s ok
Tell her I don’t mind

A final mention goes to one of his songs on Vostok 5, A Little Arrow and a Little Squirrel, about the Russian  dogs Belka and Strelka, the first space dogs to return  to earth alive. Its line

“In a cage made of metal and glass, two beating hearts, beating too fast,”

perfectly captures the perilous, unusual situation these animals’ faced and shows a willingness by Hayman to write about the most leftfield of subject matter. It is among many highlights in a great songwriting career for Hayman that is showing no signs of letting up.

9.Luke Haines

Luke Haines is a different character from most of the people on this list, he has worked hard to commit commerical suicide many times in his career and he is as well known for being bitter as he is for great songwriting. But great songwriting is what he does, and it is something he did with his previous bands, The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder, and is something he continues to do today as a solo artist.

Looking back at his earliest songs, on the Mercury Prize nominated New Wave, he seems romantic and almost whistful. Jump forward to Now I’m A Cowboy and the lyrics get more sophisticated and literary with his best known song ‘Lenny valentino’ opening;

‘There were mourners on the street of every shape and size
The motorcade came down from Redondo
Assassins on the corner tried to throw you a line
You dirty-mouth comic Rodolfo’

Luke Haines

Luke Haines

The third Auteurs album (and possibly his career defining recording) After Murder Park cranks up the bile considerably opening with the line;

“When you cut your lover slack you’ll get a fucking monster back”

To be more accurate, the single version of the song, ‘Light Aircraft On Fire’, featured the f-bomb, the album version was cleaned up, a rather perverse back-to-front decision.

His work with Black Box Recorder was (briefly) more successful and well received by the critics, but no less barbed,

“Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it”

went the chorus to their single release ‘Child Psychology’.

These days Haines is a critically acclaimed author, two volumes published of his musical memoirs, and his music no longer infects the mainstream. That isn’t to say that he has lost his songwriting skills, far from it. His latest album about wrestling in the 1970s features some of his best songwriting, and is a surprisingly warm and nostalgic record.

8. Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh has always existed just inside the fringes of American indie music scene. Critically acclaimed and successful without getting quite the same level of attention as her contemporaries such as The Pixies. Her air of quiet oddness coupled with an unpredictable performance style, ranging from whispered to screaming, marked her out as something a little bit special.

Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh

Few artists have managed to preserve a range of styles so successfully for so long. Want sprightly indie rock? Then the Throwing Muses can supply it with songs like Counting Backwards. Feel like some delicate pop music? Then Kristin Hersh solo performing Your Ghost will be right up your street. And if you’d like something a bit rough and heavy then 50 Foot Wave performing Clara Bow should fit your mood. The latter being her lyrical style in microcosm, an evocative mix of delicate and violent imagery.

Whether it was soaking in your poppy tea
Or your southern hospitality
Your voice has a singsong quality
And bones were made to be broken
Bones were made to be broken

This wide variety of musical styles is coupled with some great lyrical themes which leap between the personal and the surreal. She is one of the most raw and personal lyricists with her mental health, relationships and even the loss of custody of her first son being the subjects of her songs.

More than 25 years into her recording career she is every bit as exciting a performer as she was in the early days of Throwing Muses. Her perfomance at The Breeders ATP in 2009 was testament to that as she rocked as hard as any other performer that weekend.

7. David Gedge

Admittedly The Wedding Present and former Cinerama frontman David Gedge is a bit of a one trick pony. The poor chap has been singing about love and most notably loss for almost 30 years. So why is he on this list, you ask? If anything this obsession with the intricacies of relationships, of the highs and lows, the introspection, the guilt and jealousy, is his strength not his weakness, as his turns of phrase continue to resonate with audiences today.

David Gedge, Yeovil Orange Box, 2011 (pic by Joe Lepper)

Even on latest Wedding Present album Valentina, written during recent years of enjoyable touring for Gedge, he still manages the self-deprecating aside to suggest all is not well as “everything about my so called life is boring.” Across the years this trademark bittersweet lyrical style has hoovered up fans, who have stuck with him resolutely as their own loves and losses come and go. Among our highlights are the jealous rant of My Favourite Dress from 1987’s George Best with lines such a “It took six hours before you let me down, To see it all in a drunken kiss, A stranger’s hand on my favourite dress.”

Almost every facet of relationships, of messing up, of getting it right are covered. The former in particular gets a real hand ringing from Gedge on I’m Not Always So Stupid, also from George Best, when he says:

I’ve made a fool of myself yet once again
A boy who’s been this cruel looks for others to share the blame
Somebody told me you went to work down south
As far away as you can from my big mouth
I bumped into Jane and she told me to drop dead
Oh she’s not to blame, I know exactly what I said.

The strange thing is though for anyone who sees Wedding Present live these days or follows his tweets Gedge is just about as happy as its possible to be, still living the dream, residing by the sea in Brighton and touring the world, belting it out to those who have loved and lost.

6. Jarvis Cocker

It’s typical for rock icons to play up to their ego- just take John Lennon who declared The Beatles bigger than Jesus. There are no such proclamations from Jarvis Cocker; instead he simply milks his ability to state the bloody obvious.

“I am not Jesus though I have the same initials”

Cocker’s lyrics shed light on the mundane while being emotionless. He is the raconteur of a night time world of fishnets and carrier bags in which he is a participant observer.

Disco 2000’s meeting with Deborah never refers to how he feels, it is purely descriptive, while My Legendary Girlfriend (“she’s crying tonight/ she has no one to hold”) only addresses his desire through questioning

Can you feel how much I want you?

His life only lain bare during Little Soul, where he receives imaginary advice from the perspective of his estranged father

I’d love to help you but everybody’s telling me you look like me/ Please don’t turn out like me.

Even when being personal he has to remove himself.

As Cocker grew as a songwriter his lyrics condensed from kitchen sink documentaries of joyriders and sex, to where ones imagination completes the story:  Inside Suzanne uses novella-like prose, whereas Roadkill is flourished with double meaning

“Your hair in braids, your sailor top: The things I don’t see any more.”

With arguably his greatest work, Common People, his effortless descriptiveness is astounding. He utilises schoolboy couplets, rhyming “pool” with “school”, and audaciously linking “I” with “eye”. My old English teacher would give me the birch for less, yet Cocker’s assured wry pulls it off. Yet once again he is detached, allowing the listener to become the narrator.

Essentially it is his ability to recreate traditional story telling. Five hundred years ago he would have been a travelling balladeer regaling provincial inns with tales of distant lands and buxom wenches – Cocker even has a signature jester dance to bring his words visibly to life – while Shakespeare would use pompous language and arty-farty imagery, *cough Albarn*.

Cocker’s song writing is working class reality garnished with outsider intellectualism. It could be you hiding in Babies’ wardrobe or raving in Hampshire, but it you wouldn’t be able to convey it with such gracious wit.

See Also: Top Ten Great Songwriters – Part Two

Compiled by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers and David Newbury

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The Wedding Present – Valentina

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The Wedding Present – Valentina

Posted on 06 March 2012 by Joe

After four years of relentless touring The Wedding Present have returned to the studio to release their eighth  album and first since 2008’s El Rey. These years of touring certainly show on their new album Valentina. Its tracks are tight, punchy and pop savvy; exactly the sort of album a band well versed in how to please an audience would make. Like a well-rehearsed gig its ten tracks whizz by.

It is also unmistakable Wedding Present, full of the trademark songs of love and occasional loss from David Gedge, the band’s frontman and only remaining member from its original 1985 line up. The band’s recent tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bizarro and rehearsals for this year’s focus on Seamonster’s 20th anniversary have also clearly influenced this album. Its energy is certainly more akin to their earlier indie pop focus rather than their, at times, more downbeat later albums.

But while Gedge has clearly been reminiscing about the old days, this doesn’t sound like a band of old codgers churning out the same old stuff. For a start, the band Gedge has assembled are a young bunch, including the band’s guitarist and co –writer on most of the tracks Graeme Ramsey.  Their enthusiasm shines through, making it sound perversely more like a young band influenced by the 80s, borrowing a bit from Pavement, a bit from The Fall and whole lot from, well, The Wedding Present of the 1980s.

Gedge is more comfortable these days in baggy Cargo trousers than skinny jeans but when I caught their show in Yeovil last summer I was taken aback at how young Gedge looked.  Life in his new hometown of Brighton on the Sussex coast coupled with the band’s continued touring clearly agree with him.

The Wedding Present, Yeovil, June 2011

There’s a happiness to the album, much more love than loss in the lyrics, as well as some nods to previous classics. The frantic, chopping guitar intro on You’re Jane is vintage Wedding Present. Back a Bit.. Stop is another highpoint, with typical Gedge  lyrics such as  “every single thing about my so-called life is boring.”

The Girl from the DDR, with female backing vocals in German,  and another high point on the album, Deer Caught in the Headlights, are further examples of this being an album about the joys of love and life.

There are some minor quibbles. The mix by Andrews Scheps, whose past credits include Metallica and Iggy Pop and Johnny Cash, has turned the guitars up a notch or two and toned down other aspects of the band, including one of my highlights from their live show last summer – the backing vocals from bassist Pepe Le Moko on 524 Fidelio. This is still the album’s standout song, but I’d have liked her contribution to be given the same prominence it has live, rather than be drowned out.  In addition, opener You’re Dead starts well but then gets a little lost during its extended outro, which marks the only real bit of flab on the album.

But these are the most minor of quibbles about an album that is far more enjoyable than El Rey, more consistent than Take Fountain and more upbeat than Seamonsters. It is also worth noting that  Scheps has also done a fine job bringing out the best in drummer Charles Layton.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

See Also: Ten bands That Changed Our Lives  – The Wedding Present , The Wedding Present Live Review (Yeovil, June 2011)

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The Wedding Present, Yeovil (10/6/11)

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The Wedding Present, Yeovil (10/6/11)

Posted on 13 June 2011 by Joe

Both the gathered mass of 30 and 40-somethings and The Wedding Present themselves seemed equally surprised that this legendary indie band found itself playing Yeovil, Somerset, this month (June) for the first time in nearly three decades of gigging.

The Wedding Present, these days with just songwriter and frontman David Gedge remaining from their original line up, may have a back catalogue of 250 songs but they are far from being simply a greatest hits act. Gedge quite rightly considers the act still to be a creative force in indie music and while the set spanned most of their 26 years it contained a fair sprinkling of new ones and omitted a good chunk of their most well known tracks.

Tracks from 1989’s Bizarro, such as ‘Brassneck’ and ‘Kennedy’ were notable absentees, but seeing as they’ve recently finished a 21st anniversary tour of the album this is perhaps unsurprising. Only ‘Gone’ from Bizarro made a set list that had a bias towards their early 1990s period, including Seamonsters (1991) and their run of chart hits from 1992, the year they released a single a month.

David Gedge, The Wedding Present

Also strangely absent were tracks from the albums El Rey (2008) and Take Fountain (2005). Not sure whether there has been a Stalinist purge on this period. I hope not as Take Fountain features some of Gedge’s finest songwriting.

Among the highlights were those from the earliest and most recent points in their career. Opener ‘My Favourite Dress ‘, from debut album George Best (1987) and early single ‘Why are you being so reasonable now?’ proved crowd pleasing moments. A surprise highlight was second track and  new song ‘524 Fidelio’. This was among  the most pop savvy of the night and featured some fine backing vocals.

A small segment of tracks including ‘Health and Efficiency’ by Cinerama, the band Gedge formed in 1998 and morphed into The Wedding Present in 2003, also went down well despite being unfamiliar to some of the crowd.

The Wedding Present

While there were cries from the audience for their own favourites the band, which clearly has a strong work ethic in the same mould as other music survivors The Fall, rigidly stuck to the 20 song list and it’s career long no encore policy. “Its nothing personal, we just don’t do encores.,” Gedge politely announced.

Apart from a slightly hairy mic grabbing moment from an enthusiastic 40 something (who is surely going to be red faced back in the office on Monday) this was a typically engaging performance from Gedge and his well drilled band. Gedge particularly seemed to enjoy the responses from the crowd to his question “so what is Yeovil famous for”. It was a pleasure watching his reaction move from laughter to confusion to admiration as the  responses of “fuck all” , ” gloves” and “PJ Harvey” followed.

* Support was provided by  Nick Parker and Design. Somerset based singer songwriter  Parker has recently returned from a multi-date tour of Germany and delivered a tight, polished set of his thoughtful songs about modern life. Design, which contains members of 1980s Somerset bands The Chesterfields and Thatcher on Acid, provided another retro indie highpoint of the night with their take on The Chesterfields’  late 1980s track ‘Ask Johnny Dee’.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

See Also: Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives Pt 5: The Wedding Present

More photos from the night, as well as regular features such as ‘classic clip of the day’ can be seen at our Facebook page.

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Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives – The Wedding Present

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Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives – The Wedding Present

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Dorian

Here’s the fifth part in our list of bands that changed our lives. These are more than just our favourite bands, these are bands that altered how we think about music and provided the soundtrack to our lives. To see the other bands previously  featured in this series click here.

Part 5 – The Wedding Present

Some people will see this article and be surprised at The Wedding Present as a choice for a landmark band, to many they will represent the mundanity of pre-Madchester indie. To a 15 year old fledgling alternative music obsessive in 1987 they represented something more, the first new British indie act to grab me in my teenage years.

Formed in 1985 by David Gedge and Keith Gregory, from the ashes of their first band the Lost Pandas, the line-up was completed by Peter Solowka and Shaun Charman. This line-up would record a handful of singles and Peel sessions (the band recorded 9 sessions with the DJ) ,released in 1988 as Tommy, and their classic debut album George Best.

The Wedding Present circa 1990

The Wedding Present circa 1990

George Best was my first encounter with the band and soon became my favourite album of my mid-teens. The Wedding present were seen as second rate to The Smiths in the indie-hierarchy, but to me they were the superior band in every way. I love The Smiths now, but as a teenager in the south of England they said little to me. I wasn’t interested in Morrissey’s fey approach or his poetic references, Gedge’s tales of wet bus stops, disappointment and girl troubles said a lot more to a 15 year old who was just discovering girls and the complications that brought.

The bands time on the major label RCA was a brilliant period which produced the bands two best albums and saw the band going from creative strength to creative strength. Bizarro showed an increasingly abrasive edge to the bands frenzied guitars and spawned their first top 40 hits. ‘Brassneck’ was released as a single and rerecorded with Steve Albini, who would oversee the follow-up album Seamonsters, beating PJ Harvey and Nirvana to recording with the Big Black legend. The B-side to the single included a cover off the Pavement song ‘Box Elder’ some 8 years before Blur picked them up as an influence in the wake of Brit-pop.

I saw the band live several times in the late 80s and early 90s and they were never less than excellent. Gedge a dry witted and understated front man and the sets full throttle and filled with crowd pleasing favourites. Even the band’s trademark refusal to play and encore added to the enjoyment of the live show.

The Wedding Present had a landmark contract with RCA, it not only meant they could work with any producer or their choosing but also meant that if the label rejected any of their singles they could choose to release it with any other label. As a result the label didn’t resist their decision to release a single a month for the whole of 1992, which were later released on the Hit Parade 1 and 2 compilations. This proved to be a good move as the band equalled Elvis’s record of having 12 top 30 hits in a single year, despite each single being limited to 10,000 copies. One of my regrets is only picking up three of the singles, my record buying at the time being at the mercy of the stock in the Our Price on Eltham high street, and missing out on the inventive cover art and interesting cover versions on each b-side.

The Wedding Present today

The Wedding Present today

With the release of Watusi in 1994 (the first album by the band to only feature Gedge from the original line-up) I had started to lose interest in the band. In retrospect this was a mistake as that album stands up as one the bands best (and demands a reissue) but as a fickle indie kid I had moved on to other acts. After a few releases were ignored by the record buying public Gedge joined me and brought the band to a close to focus on his new act Cinerama.

Cinerama pulled me back in, they were basically the same band but with less of the drab indie reputation that The Wedding Present had established over time. After a string of excellent albums Gedge reverted back to the Wedding Present moniker to release Take Fountain in 2005.

The band continue to this day, playing gigs, releasing records and running mini-festivals in Brighton and Holmfirth. they deserve to be remembered as one of the great British bands of the last 30 years and David Gedge held up alongside Morrissey as one of the great lyricists and songwriters.

Ten Wedding Present Tracks To Check Out:

  1. You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends
  2. My Favourite Dress
  3. I’m Not Always So Stupid
  4. Kennedy
  5. Corduroy
  6. Dalliance
  7. California
  8. Spangle
  9. Sports car
  10. I’m From Further North Than You

And for a selection of songs listen to this Spotify playlist. (Only live tracks are available on Spotify from the pre-Bizarro era, and the albums towards the end of band first time around aren’t present).

By Dorian Rogers

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