Long-time fans of the Wedding Present will be interested to learn that there’s an entirely new recording of the band’s 1987 debut, the classic George Best, sitting somewhere amid Dave Gedge’s belongings. It’s a subject the vocalist-guitarist mentions very casually as he discusses El Rey, the Wedding Present’s eighth and most recent full-length.
“We recorded El Rey and we had a bit of time left over, so we thought, ”˜Well, let’s record George Best again,’ ” Gedge reveals during a call from a motel somewhere in Hollywood. “So we just rattled through the set. And I’ve got this two-inch tape, unmixed obviously, recorded by Steve Albini. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet. Maybe it’ll be my pension fund. When I retire, I’ll put it out.”
To make matters even more curious, Gedge thinks the new George Best––recorded using the same lineup that played the album from start to finish for a 20th anniversary tour––is better than the old one. Which would make it the George Bestest.
“Well, to be honest, it’s my least favourite album,” he says, chuckling, “so I’m bound to say that, really. I’m 20 years older, and I’m better at what I do in terms of making records, playing the guitar, singing. Actually, not playing the guitar. I’ve not really improved on that. But the band now is a lot more capable than it was in 1987, and obviously Steve Albini is a great engineer. So yeah, it’ll be great when it’s finished. If it ever is.”
For the sake of accuracy, this is not the same Wedding Present that tumbled out of Britain’s rough-and-ready C86-vintage indie scene over two decades ago. As Gedge himself notes, almost forlornly, he’s “the only Englishman left” in a band that has gone through more members than Seka’s casting director, and a sizable hiatus starting in 1997.
When the Wedding Present was resurrected in 2005 with Take Fountain, the Leeds native was living in Seattle, and surrounded by Yanks in a band that was, at one time, as unequivocally British as the Smiths.
“It was a particularly parochial scene,” Gedge agrees about the U.K. indie nation of the ’80s, “but I always had a bigger world-view. And certainly, a lot of American music was a huge influence on us.”
Oddly enough, there are a handful of Best-like moments on the U.S.-made El Rey, sonically speaking: the rushed, choppy guitars and knock-kneed drumming of “Spider-Man on Hollywood”, and throughout the disc, Gedge’s Yorkshire-accented voice is as blunt an instrument as that of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner. Elsewhere, the album is a pleasing combination of Albini’s unfiltered recording job and Gedge’s sharp, trademark examination of the secret world of erotically fixated men.
El Rey is populated by characters who pursue other men’s partners, crassly ponder the fact that girls have “hair where I don’t think they should”, or––in the stupendous “Model, Actress, Whatever”¦”––take onanism to operatic heights. Is Gedge revealing too much about our dirty little minds, boys?
“Possibly, yeah,” he laughs. “I’m interested in what people don’t say to each other, what they’re hiding. Yeah. Welcome to my life, really.”
The Wedding Present plays the Media Club on Friday (September 26).