The Wedding Present takes on L.A.
by Jeremy Ohmes
David Gedge has been in the pop music game for 23 years, longer than some of his fans have lived and longer than most of them can remember. As the singer, songwriter and founder of the beloved U.K. pop group The Wedding Present, Gedge has become a cult figure in many music circles because of his prolific output and his knack for composing some of the catchiest break-up songs ever put to tape. He’s written more three-minute, three-chord pop songs than your iPod Shuffle can hold; he’s recorded eight Wedding Present albums for six labels and that’s not including their 15 or so compilations and B-side collections; and he’s released a Beatlesque amount of singles over the years. (Useless trivia alert: In 1992 the Leeds-based band issued a single on the first Monday of every month and equaled Elvis Presley’s record for most U.K. Top 30 hits in one year.)
While some might describe a certain Wedding Present sound — jangly and brittle post-punk guitar pop that sounds like The Smiths on speed married to Gedge’s dry, conversational singing and love-n-sex obsessed lyrics — the truth is that The Wedding Present is an unending musical novel and every album is a new character with a new set of problems. In his thick, rapid-fire cockney accent, Gedge says, “I never like those bands that make a record, and two years later they make the same-sounding record. One thing that I’m proud of is that each Wedding Present album has its own personality.” From the group’s revved-up punk frenzy of a debut, George Best, to the dark, discordant and dysfunctional Seamonsters; from the warm, semi-psychedelic sing-alongs on Watusi to the playful and plain-spoken sexual phrasings of Take Fountain, every Wedding Present record has its own distinct take on romantic frustration, and every Wedding Present fan has her own album to identify with. “It’s strange,” says Gedge. “As an artist you want to improve all the time, but a fan’s favorite album might be the one you dislike the most. Our first LP is my least favorite because it’s flawed, but some people like that album a lot because of its imperfections.”
The Wedding Present’s latest album, El Rey, is yet another character in Gedge’s brokenhearted menagerie of semi-autobiographical storysongs. Written while he lived in West Hollywood, El Rey ambles like a starstruck tourist down the palm-lined streets and strips of L.A. References to the Palisades, Hollywood Boulevard, La Brea Avenue and other glitzy points of interest abound, setting the scenes for thwarted affairs and lovelorn anecdotes. But El Rey is much more than just a study of cinematic-sized heartbreak in movie town — it’s an ode to the surreal life that is L.A. Gedge says, “I’ve always been interested in pop culture, and L.A. is the capital of pop culture. It’s kind of a cartoon world. You watch a film one night and then the next day you walk out and see what looks like the actress from the film on the street and it’s really quite strange.” Or as the song “Spider-Man on Hollywood” says, “I thought I saw a flying saucer last night, but of course it was just an aeroplane / I thought I saw Winona Ryder, but my eyes were playing tricks again.”
The Wedding Present, Earlimart. 9 pm, Tuesday, Sept. 23. John Henry’s. $10 adv., $12 door • 21+ show