The Wedding Present

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Seamonsters Review

by Tim Sendra

After recording with Steve Albini on their remake of 1990's "Brassneck" single, the Wedding Present decamped to Minnesota to record a full album with the notoriously abrasive producer. It proved to be a perfect match of band and producer and Seamonsters turned out to be the most emotionally powerful album the band could have hoped to make. Albini's dramatically stripped-down sound and David Gedge's utterly wrecked lyrics work to wring every last drop of desolate anger and angst from the songs. Simon Smith sounds like he's battering his drums with concrete blocks instead of sticks, Keith Gregory's wire-taut bass sounds like it's stalking the guitars, and Gedge and Peter Solowka's guitars explode into flaming balls of noise and sound when they aren't lurking in the mix like barely restrained demons. The simplicity of the recording, the intense range of dynamics in each song, and the almost painful amount of passion the band injects into every note is breathtaking. Add in Gedge's ripped-from-his-heart vocals and his intensely felt, quite bleak lyrics and it gets close to emotional overload territory. The Weddoes had always had a reputation for being dour and straitlaced, but there was usually still some humor in Gedge's turns of phrase, a jaunty feel to their high-speed guitar strumathons, and an almost fun energy in their poppiest songs. There's absolutely nothing about Seamonsters that isn't the darkest, unhappiest thing one could imagine. Luckily, all the gloom is tempered by how catchy the songs are -- hooky tracks like "Dare" and "Dalliance" are hard to shake. It's also made easier to swallow by the quieter songs like "Carolyn" and the overall dynamic approach, which allow Gedge some space to croon. Indeed, this is the album where Gedge moves beyond being a solid vocalist to being a great one. He transmits so much emotion with such a limited range that it's almost like some kind of sad magic trick. Seamonsters is the Wedding Present's masterpiece, a long look into the abyss that feels like a knife twisting deep into the heart, and sounds like a glimpse into the bare souls of the band. It's not easy listening, but it is essential.

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