Every time there is a new release from The Wedding Present it is like meeting up with an old mate, the reunion of a long standing friendship with new thrills and excitable tales to tell. They may not be accounts of joy or successful passions but each time they leave a warmth and smile in the heart as well as a happy glow within the senses. Their new album Valentina is no exception, with declarations and expressive reflective looks and reports of love plus all that comes with relationships, the release is a wonderful mesmeric album with a heart that connects deeply.
Since day one The Wedding Present and remaining founder David Gedge has forged their own distinctive path, presented their own category of sound and style to invite and thrill devoted ears. Many bands have stayed a similar distance to the band but it is hard to recall many with the high consistency and continual pushing of their own limits to match Gedge and co. The only one to spring to mind is The Fall and maybe it is no coincidence that both bands and their heartbeats of Mark E. Smith and Gedge write and produce music which has an open honesty and directness to the emotions. The thought out simplicity and clarity in lyrical form and compulsive sounds possibly have kept both bands essential and constantly fresh, constantly important companions for the ear. Whatever the reason The Wedding Present never fails in creating and treating one to special releases, and in Valentina they have one of their finest albums yet.
The follow up to 2008 album El Rey, the new release is the eighth album from the band, with Gedge alongside bassist Pepe Le Moko who also brings some enchanting backing vocals, drummer Charles Layton, and Graeme Ramsay who provides guitars, piano and harmonium as well as co-writing all the songs bar one with Gedge on Valentina. The songs on the album are an eclectic array of sounds, energy and sentiments, each avoiding the gloss of relationships and love to bring forth the reality and black and whiteness that is really involved. The album is the everyday world of love in aural form, but a revealing of things y feelings already knew but maybe was avoiding.
As the opening You’re Dead announces itself on big ear catching beats there is an instant tingle and the feeling there could be something special on the cards. Then the drama less voice of Gedge unveils truths as the guitars coax the senses from around the continuing bulky rhythms. Sensitive yet defiant in word and sound the song is an engaging start though as the album progresses turns out to be quite a subdued beginning from the band. Not in energy or emotion but in giving the ear something unpredictable as the following songs like the excellent Meet Cute and The Girl From The DDR to name two subsequently do. The first is a provoking combination of minimal touches alongside climactic crescendos. Not for the first time on the album the track shows what a fine bassist le Moko is, her touch strong, inventive and pulsating with emotive tones. The second of these two is a mesmeric duet between Gedge and le Moko, her parts sung in German. The song epitomizes the band and its wealth of work, a song that touches the heart and imagination with emotive strength whilst keeping things surprising and intoxicating. The end to the song is stunning, one of the best heard to any song in a long time, the track teasing and playing with the ear as it builds to its wonderful sharp sublime end.
There is not one single negative that can be laid at the feet of Valentina. When you have songs like the energetic and veracious Back A Bit….Stop with its deep infectious pull and urgency that has limbs taking on a life of their own, and the impressive End Credits, a wonderful caustic melodic pop song that is hard to rival with extra meaty joy from the dark and grave bass that prowls throughout, there is only one result, a staggeringly great album.
With rhythms that invoke the essences of primal attraction, guitars that suggest and expose the passions within each song, as well as the ever intelligent and open verity of words and delivery of Gedge, Valentina is pure bliss, with the songs not mentioned like 524 Fidelio with more bass glory to drool over, are just as equal in quality and pleasure as those highlighted. The Wedding Present has returned with easily a contender for album of the year if not of the past few.