Saturday, 31 May 2014

50 albums to take to my grave #6: Bizarro

It's a return to the unashamedly 'indie' for this post, and you don't get much more indie than the Wedding Present. You'll already know of my affection for Mr Gedge and whichever intrepid cohorts happen to be playing with him this week. While most fans would opt for the band's seminal third album 'Seamonsters' from 1991, its predecessor, 1989's 'Bizarro' just edges it for me. Yeah, controversial I know.

It was an interesting time for the Weddoes; their debut album 'George Best' had been very well received, the band was picking up lots of favourable press, and two non-album singles had just missed the Top 40. Then the unthinkable happened - the Wedding Present signed to a major label. Who would have thought it? Yet looking back on it now it seemed to make sense. David Gedge never did anything he didn't feel was right, and as it turned out, the RCA deal really was a good decision. Typically, the first release on the label was a compilation of Ukrainian folk songs the band had recorded for John Peel, but later that year the barnstorming single Kennedy emerged, and nothing could have announced the return of the Weddoes-proper than that track. It gave them their first Top 40 hit and, let's face it, Kennedy definitely rates as one of the best singles of the 80s. It also ushered in a major label debut that to this day I delight in playing.

While 'Bizarro' was hardly a dramatic change of direction for the band, it certainly bore a number of marked differences and developments compared with 'George Best'. Sure the trademarks were all in place: Gedge's thrashy, jangly guitar bursts with dour Yorkshire drawl over the top; lyrics telling tales of love, lust, jealousy, revenge, guilt and resentment. However, the sound was altogether meatier and fuller, the songs sounded more fully formed and for the first time, tracks extended beyond the 5-minute mark.

There were some top tunes too. As well as the introductory single, there was No and Granadaland, two songs in which Gedge really lets rip at a girlfriend; Bewitched which could stand as a somewhat experimental moment in the early Weddoes canon (and also one of my favourite tracks on the album); and the sprawling monster that is Take Me!, nine-plus minutes of classic Gedge culminating in an extended Velvet Underground-esque rhythm guitar wig-out.

David Gedge on the 'Bizarro'
21st Anniversary tour.
Oh yes, he's still got it!
'Bizarro' was far from the 'sell out' many fans had feared and to me it still stands taller than everything else they did. In 2010 I saw them play the album live, beginning to end, on its 21st Anniversary tour in Cardiff. It took me back to the time I saw them on the original 'Bizarro' tour in Bristol. 

I never did quite get into 'Seamonsters' the way I should have, though it has grown on me a lot over time (I also went to their Cardiff show on the 21st Anniversary tour for that album in 2012!) Strange really as I really loved the re-recording of 'Bizarro''s opener Brassneck they did with Steve Albini which hinted at what was to come.

I think the secret lay in the songs. 'Seamonsters' was quite heavy going in places whereas everything I initially loved about the Wedding Present was present and correct on 'Bizarro' plus more besides. It's probably why I still come back to it 25 years on.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite song of all songs is "Take Me" off Bizarro.