Wedding Present - George Best
For a start, there is the rather fetching use of the so-called "100 m.p.h. guitar". Although this has led some to complain that the songs all have a familiar sound to them, in fact the playing of the guitar in this way adds a tension and frustration to the sound which so often matches the lyrics. Then there are the song titles - many of them are quite long and, ostensibly at first glance, rather puerile: "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft"; "What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?"; "Give My Love to Kevin"; and "You Can't Moan, Can You?" Yet, as with the guitar, initial unfavourable reactions are misplaced.
The songs themselves are, by and large, perfect descriptions of the trials and tribulations of teenage life - so petty to some they may be, but to the teenager experiencing them, full of awkward moments, embarrassing situations and nascent emotions which are hard to describe and even harder to control. The song titles mirror those situations perfectly. Yet none of this would amount to anything, were it not for a series of clever, insightful lyrics which bring the listener into the world of the protagonist-as-singer. The result is that, even though I am coming to this anew, at an age far removed from my (halcyon?) teenage days, I am pulled back into those days when those feelings and situations were as real to me then as they almost certainly are to teenagers now.
The album opens with "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft", which is as good a start to a debut album as any and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Echoing the sentiments of tracks like Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going out with Him?" the title is justified as a bitter reproach by a jilted boyfriend discussing his girlfriend's new love with her. From then on, the familiar emotional situations just roll out. Who among the males listening to "A Million Miles" has not, in a puppy-love crush on someone, found their own behaviour reflected in these lines:
"I must have walked past this doorway thirty times/ Just trying to catch your eye./ It made it all worthwhile/ When you returned my smile"
His observations continue, switching between the love-struck individual taken advantage of by a less-smitten partner - "It's What You Want That Matters"; "You Can't Moan Can You" - and the apparently detached observations of third parties where the protagonist is clearly playing an influential, though ill-defined role, in the relationship - "Don't Be So Hard"; "Shatner". However, the songs are strongest when the vocal protagonist is expressing feelings in the first tense, such as in the self-pitying and slightly bitter "Give My Love to Kevin"
As if these portrayals of real life are not enough, some of the post-recording studio comments have been left in to shed some light on what goes on. At the start of "Something and Nothing", there is reproach and frustration at the failure of the recording staff to appreciate what the band is trying to achieve, a situation which mirrors the situation conveyed by the song itself, albeit in a different context - the failure of a partner to live up to one's expectations.
The version of the album I have is the reissued CD with the addition of some singles and remixes. Among these, the highlights are undoubtedly the acoustic version of "Give My Love to Kevin" which, if anything, makes the feelings expressed in the original even more poignant, and the cover of the Beatles' "Getting Better" where a clever admixture of female vocal harmonies make this version an improvement on the original.
The credit for the success of this album must go to frontman and lyricist, David Gedge. Singing with the added effect of a strong south Yorkshire accent, he brings these brief tales of un-ordinary ordinariness to life. That these songs describe situations, many of which are familiar to each of us, is at the heart of what makes this album such a success. Even after the passage of all these years, I can still picture the situations I found myself in when they were real to me. If you are a teenager today, this album is essential as an enduring commentary on the highs and lows of teenage life. If you are the parent of a teenager today, this album is even more important as an insight into what your kids are going through in their daily lives - in case you have forgotten.
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on 2011-05-16 CharlesMartel Said:
Quite possibly the finest album to come out of the original C86.