Before there was emo, there was the Wedding Present, heart-on-sleeve whining about the one that got away. Before there was indie pop (in the way history has thus construed it), there was the Wedding Present, jangling away on NME’s seminal C86 compilation in 1986. Unassumingly, the band trudged away for more than a decade, from 1985 to 1997, finding themselves often at the forefront of disparate scenes in American and British indie rock. They holed up in Chicago in 1991 to record their classic, Seamonsters, with Steve Albini and followed that up in 1992 by releasing a single each month of the year, a gimmick that lays claim to tying Elvis’s record in Britain for having the “most hits in one year.” The band, which has a tumultuous history, never officially broke up, but Take Fountain is their first in nine years.
Of course, calling the Wedding Present a band might be misleading. It requires a mathematician and an obsessed researcher to track all the releases and lineup changes regarding the Wedding Present, and Take Fountain only includes one original member: David Gedge. Incidentally, he’s been the only constant throughout the band’s history. After the Wedding Present released 1996’s underwhelming Saturnalia, Gedge went on to form the winning pop duo Cinerama, crafting beautifully orchestrated songs with then-girlfriend Sally Murrell. When the couple broke up, so did the band. Perhaps Gedge was itching for the more straightforward approach to pop songwriting, the kind he explored in the Wedding Present’s driving guitars and tales of woe and lust and in playing the roll he knows best: the cuckolded lover.
Unfortunately, since Satrunalia, not a whole lot has changed, and Take Fountain is ultimately disappointing. The album opens promisingly with the somber, moody and relentless “Interstate Five,” which appropriately drives a steady beat home for more than eight minutes as Gedge weaves a story about — you guessed it — unrequited love. Strings are used evocatively and sparingly throughout the album, but they seem to be more of an afterthought than a necessity.
The other standout is “I’m From Further North than You,” which contains endearing lyrics like “First time I saw your red bikini, I just couldn’t help but stare.” Coming from someone else, this kind of lyric might seem harsh and facile, but within the context of a man who has spent twenty years writing essentially the same song, it’s more than passable — it’s amusing.
Take Fountain won’t satiate fans who have been waiting nearly a decade for a new Wedding Present record, but Gedge’s return to the band that made him known is not unwelcome. Still, sometimes resurrecting the dead only reminds you of what killed it in the first place.