Our pick of the week's new releases is a culmination of a brilliant year's work by the Leeds indie giants
It feels satisfyingly inappropriate to round out the year with an album of the week that isn’t really an album. 24 Songs is exactly what it says it is: 24 songs. Twenty-four songs that David Gedge and his melodic hammer of a band released on a two-a-month schedule throughout 2022 before gathering the entire lot together in a limited-edition box set.
Fans of the band will recognise this serialisation as the same rollout they used way back in 1992 for their Hit Parade series. A cynic might roll their eyes and speak of retracing steps and diminishing returns but over their 30-year-plus career, The Wedding Present have proven beyond any doubt that they’re a gift that keeps on giving.
Placing these 24 songs in close proximity to the (slightly delayed) 30th anniversary tour for Seamonsters (easily one of the greatest rock albums of the 90s) can’t help but invite comparisons between the Wedding Present of 1991 and their 2022 equivalent. But nothing has dulled, no quarter’s been given, no bite has been blunted. Gedge might not be fuelled by as much angst as he was on the ferocious, oppressive Seamonsters (although you’d never guess), but The Wedding Present sound as vital and fired up as they ever did – somehow the same but different.
What do you want from a Wedding Present song? Gedge’s off-kilter croon? Lyrics that sound like you’re hearing something you shouldn’t? Guitars that threaten to disassemble your audio equipment? Hooks that sweeten the ferocity like half a sugar in your espresso? All turn up here, living their very best versions of themselves.
Take the exquisite, lovelorn ‘Monochrome’. Over delicate guitar and Melanie Howard’s nimble bass line and wordless backing, Gedge sings: “Every day spent without you just becomes so monochrome. There’s no colour, life’s just duller”. It’s all so sweet and sad and then the guitars come crashing down without mercy, like a yearning so strong it drives you to destruction. It’s breathtaking, but far from the only such moment across these 24 songs.
The whole project started in January 2022 with a track that must surely rank with Gedge’s best. Writing with Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart has not only brought the best out of both, it also brought Louise Wener into the fold for a cover of Sleeper’s ‘We Should Be Together’. Wener and Gedge sound like natural foils, especially with The Wedding Present version resting halfway between 80s Northern jangle and 90s Britpop. Turns out that’s a pretty amazing place to rest.
November’s ominous ‘Science Fiction’ builds and builds, working in some lovely guitar work from Stewart via a stunningly simple chiming lead line that lifts the mood without shattering it. September’s ‘We All Came From The Sea’ moves like it’s being pulled to shore by a speedboat, verging into a danceability that explains its subsequent remix by Utah Saints.
It seems ridiculous to expect a band that’s been going for so long to release 24 songs in a year that are consistently among their best work. But throughout 2022, The Wedding Present have delivered a year-long advent calendar that has never disappointed. Twenty-four windows and a prize in each.
The band have long been defined by their consistency, from 1987’s George Best to 1991’s Seamonsters to 2008’s El Rey. Where so many of their peers and followers have fallen by the wayside, The Wedding Present remain one of the few greats whose longevity only enhances their legacy.
The 24 Songs box set is out now. Get tickets here to see The Wedding Present on their 2023 UK tour