Scopitones and Clue Records, 2022

‘Fiercely independent, proudly single-minded, always a bon mot, trendsetting.’ Phrases which could easily describe our most admired barrister colleagues. Here, though, I use them about a band, The (in their own words) ‘semi-legendary’ Wedding Present. A band I fell for in 1986 when a school friend played me a cassette recording of their second Peel session (a session which included a Ukrainian folk song – long story, but remarkably prescient). In my head ever since, this is how electric guitars should sound.

Of David Gedge, the band’s singer-songwriter, John Peel once said, ‘The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong.’ John Peel was right. Also, it’s hard not to like a band whose early t-shirts proclaimed, ‘Smiths fans’ second-favourite band’ and ‘All the songs sound the same’. 

In 1992 The Wedding Present (who by then had already worked with producer Steve Albini on their Seamonsters album before his ultra-cool Nirvana days) released a single every month (an original backed with a cover). Limited to 15,000 pressings, this ensured each release a Top 40 place, and ranks them alongside Elvis Presley for the most Top 40 singles in a year.

In 2022, 30 years later, the band – still going strong, like some barristers – did the same again, releasing a 7-inch single each month. The collection has been released in a dedicated collector’s box. Reader, I have listened so you don’t have to (script for their next t-shirt, anyone?).

I set out of course to provide a completely dispassionate review, but – forgive me – I am weak, and utterly, blissfully biased when it comes to this band.

When January started off with We Should Be Together featuring Louise Wener, formerly of Sleeper (whose guitarist John Stewart is now a member of The Wedding Present), I was lost in a giddy, arms-waving-above-my-head miasma of nostalgia. When the B-side, Don’t Give Up Without A Fight reminded me that this is still – after all these years – how electric guitars should sound, I had to interrupt 17 from her revision to explain it all to her. (She nodded patiently and went back to her books, but I like to think she was in some respects better informed.)

What, then, will you hear as you work your way through the complete collection? Fewer cover versions for one thing, though Magazine’s A Song From Under The Floorboards is welcome. You’ll still get guitars which fizz and buzz (Strike, Telemark), which sparkle and chime (Memento Mori, Astronomic) and which can unexpectedly punch you in the stomach (Plot Twist).

You’ll still get anguished in-love/out-of-love songs in Gedge’s famously gruff and slightly off-key voice (Summer, The Loneliest Time Of The Year). You’ll get plenty of bons mots (I Am Not Going To Fall In Love With You, You’re Just A Habit That I’m Trying To Break). Goodness, I hear some funk guitar, and even a synth, in the splendid We All Came In From The Sea. And, because the years have mellowed all of us a little (right?), you’ll hear slightly gentler songs too (Each Time You Open Your Eyes, Whodunnit). I can reliably assure you that in his 60s the boy Gedge continues to write guitar pop songs to die for.

So, The Wedding Present – independent to the core, still challenging themselves, like the best of barristers. Reader – go now, buy 24 Songs, and everything else they have ever released. Tell your friends and family to do likewise. They were the constant soundtrack to my 20s and 30s; may they live forever.