As much I liked The Wedding Present's 2005 "comeback" album, Take Fountain, it was really only a Wedding Present album in name only. David Gedge had retire the Weddoes in 1997 to form Cinerama with his girlfriend Sally Murrell and over the course of three albums explored his love of '60s Italian soundtrack music, French pop, and other things that fell outside of his other band's speedy jangle. Lyrically, of course, Cinerama kept with Gedge's forte: relationship drama.
But he and Murrell split up in 2004, Gedge moved to Seattle and decided to record under the Wedding Present name again. It's one hell of a breakup album but clearly it was fashioned as a Cinerama record — the Ennio Morricone guitar parts, the strings, and not one sign of The Wedding Present's signature hand-on-fire strumming style.
The strum has returned for their new album, El Rey, making it clear that this truly is The Wedding Present. He's also re-teamed with Steve Albini who helped Gedge make the two finest records of his career: 1991's Seamonsters and Cinerama's second album, Disco Volante. (Albini also recorded Cinerama's third album, Torino, which is also pretty darn good.) I'm not sure that I agree with Big Takeover's Jack Rabid who says it's the best thing Gedge has ever done, but it's another great record in what is one of the most consistently excellent track records in indie rock history.
As the title, cover art and press photos imply, this is The Wedding Present's "L.A." record, mainly because Gedge has moved there and not because it was made with help from piles of blow. Neither is it sunny, exactly, but it's more upbeat than Take Fountain. Los Angeles' influence is mainly in the lyrics and song titles: "Palisades," "Spiderman on Hollywood," "Santa Anna Winds." Like always, his lyrics are full of the little details that give his songs such an almost voyeuristic feel to them. They have also gotten increasingly more explicit over the years, to the point where sometimes I feel like maybe he's sharing a little too much.
I think my favorite song, right now, is the waltz-time "Model, Actress, Whatever…" even though it contains the line "it's just a jpeg"… we're just not there yet I don't think. (There are some real lyrical clunkers this time, unfortunately.) Apart from that it sounds like it could've been on Seamonsters.
The album's first single is "The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend" which harkens back to the days when The Wedding Present had the longest song titles in indie rock.
My initial thought when I saw the "Thing I Like Best About Him" title was The Specials (actually the Special AKA, once Terry Hall, Linval and Neville left to form Fun Boy 3) did it first.