Slumberland Goes to Glasgow for Sexy Kids and Bricolage

Slumberland Records knows how to make a comeback. One of the most influential indie labels of the '90s, they went dormant, for the most part, in 2001. But then last year, like the Wonka factory, things began to stir in Slumberland land, with the label being fully revitalized this year. We've gotten great full-lengths from The Lodger and Crystal Stilts, a swell caUSE co-MOTION compilation, the awesome Searching for the Now series of split 7" singles and the promise of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's excellent debut album due in February 2009.

Now add to that absolutely fantastic singles from two of Glasgow's best new bands.

First is Sexy Kids' debut single "Sisters are Forever," which features half of the short-lived, dearly-missed The Royal We. Like that band, it still owes a lot to that city's '80s new wave scene, though this really sounds more like Altered Images than anything on Postcard. (More specifically, it sounds like The Wedding Present's cover of "Think That it Might.") It's pretty great:

MP3Sexy Kids – Sisters are Forever (buy it from Slumberland)

MP3The Wedding Present – Think That it Might

Slumberland has also signed Bricolage who definitely evoke the Postcard sound. The band have been together for two years and have toured with Franz Ferdinand and punk legend Vic Godard (who Orange Juice covered). "Turn U Over," their fourth single, reeks of Orange Juice but yet it tastes fresh, not from concentrate, and the chorus is insanely infectious and bonkers good. I love it. 

MP3Bricolage – Turn U Over (buy from Slumberland; earlier releases on Emusic)

MP3Orange Juice – Satellite City

Bricolage's debut album, which "Turn U Over" is from, is due out in February on Slumberland.

The Wedding Present | Southpaw | 10.09.2008

Though they've been a band for 23 years, some things about The Wedding Present remain comfortingly constant: the subject matter of their songs (love, heartbreak, betrayal, jealously), founder David Gedge's ability to play the guitar like his hand's on fire, and the band's strict policy of no requests, no encores. But most importantly, their ability to consistently deliver the goods, year after year, despite enough line-up changes to rival The Fall.

Still, the Southpaw show on Thursday, which I'm pretty sure their first-ever in Brooklyn, was much better than their tour two years ago, the first since Gedge reinstated the Wedding Present name after eight years as Cinerama (who I also liked). That record, Take Fountain, was quite good but really had more of Cinerama feel (it was written as a Cinerama record), and the band was almost entirely new. 

Same line-up two years later, with a new album, El Rey, that really sounds like The Wedding Present, we get a confident show with a crowd-pleasing set of fan favorites and the best of the new album. Set highlights for me was hearing "Sportscar" from 1996's underrated Mini and the one-two Seamonsters punch of "Dalliance" and "Dare." I really don't know how Gedge manages to still play like that, whipping the guitar around, but I'm glad he still does.

MP3The Wedding Present – Sportscar (buy it)

As much as I love The Wedding Present, the real thrill of the night came just before they took stage. I noticed that there was a cheap-looking keyboard set up by the main microphone and immediately thought "that's an odd thing to see at a Wedding Present show" but then out came a guy wearing a giant papier mache head and I exclaimed "OH MY GOD IT'S FRANK SIDEBOTTOM!" I'm pretty sure I was one of about four people in the place who knew who he was (feel confident that the dude standing near me wearing a Frank Sidebottom t-shirt did too) and I only knew about him because I used to read the Trouser Press Record Guide over-and-over and was intrigued enough by the writeup to go out an purchase a best-of CD about ten years ago.

Anyway, Frank is kind of like a British, much weirder Weird Al, who does cover versions of popular (and not-so-popular) songs but changes the lyrics so that they're all about his hometown of Timperley (example: "Anarchy in the UK" becomes "Anarchy in Timperley") and how he does the shopping for his mum, his love of football, and the like — all in this high-pitched nasal voice. It's genuinely weird and funny and I never ever in my life thought I would see Frank Sidebottom live. (He was in town four a four-day blitzkrieg of the New York area where he played, like, 12 gigs during that time.) I think I actually did the rub-eyes-because-I-can't-believe-what-I'm-seeing thing. Frank only played for about ten minutes before introducing the night's main attraction, but he did play his ace cover of The Fall's "Hit the North" in that time.

MP3Frank Sidebottom – Hit the North (buy it)

Return of the Strum

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.

MP3: The Wedding Present – Model, Actress, Whatever…

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.

MP3: The Wedding Present – What did Your Last Servant Die Of?

MP3: The Wedding Present – The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend

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.

MP3: Download Special – (What I Like Most About You is Your) Girlfriend

Buy El Rey, and more Wedding Present albums. Also Cinerama.

The Wedding Present | Bowery Ballroom | 3.08.2006

I have seen The Wedding Present upwards of ten times over the last 14 years. The first time was in 1992 at the old 9:30 Club in Washington DC. They were touring America for the US release of Seamonsters, but they were in the midst of their year-long assault on the British charts, releasing a new single every month — all of which made the UK top 30, tying Elvis’ record for most hit singles in one year.

Through countless lineup changes I remained, and still have the long-sleeve Watusi t-shirt somewhere in my apartment. The Wedding Present are one of my favorite bands ever. I thought Cinerama were worthy as well. In fact I feel David Gedge has produced two absolute classic masterpieces: TWP’s Seamonsters and Cinerama’s Disco Volante.

Anyhoo, The Wedding Present played Bowery Ballroom on March 8 and I was there. The lineup was significantly different than their show last year. Simon Cleave, who’d been with the Weddoes, and later Cinerama, since 1996 or so, declined this tour. His replacement was their guitar tech, a young kid in a too-big longsleeve t-shirt who played nervously at first but came into his own four or five songs in. The drummer was also new, a really really young guy who I wouldn’t be surprised if he was born after TWP got their start. But he was solid.

Apart from a growing paunch and dyed-black hair, Gedge was Gedge. He’s 45, but can still play like his arm’s on fire. It never gets old.

Some have said the setlists on this tour aren’t as hit-heavy, but I have to disagree. Sure, maybe there’s no "My Favorite Dress," "Kennedy" or "California," but any set that contains "Brassneck," "Suck," "Come Play with Me," "Heather" and "A Million Miles" cannot be considered a disappointment. Plus, they did their cover of Julie Cruise’s "Falling" (the Twin Peaks‘ theme)… and they never play their covers. That was awesome.

What was not awesome was the crowd, which was full of a bunch of drunk jerks. I sort of expect this these days at Weddoes shows, but Wednesday seemed worse than normal. There was an obliterated young couple standing in front of us that made out for almost the entire first half of the set, and were stumbling/crashing into people the whole time. But they couldn’t deter my good time completely.

Maybe the best thing about the show was that the audience wasn’t just there to hear the old hits. When they launched into "Ringway to Seatac" (from last year’s quite good Take Fountain) the crowd exploded — it rivaled "Brassneck" for enthusiasm. My only quibble is that more Cinerama songs could have been worked into the set, and I personally think every show should contain "Dalliance," perhaps The Wedding Present’s greatest song ever. Also, they seem to be playing the exact same setlist in the exact same order at every show. But Gedge is still writing great songs, and even though at one point he claimed he was "getting too old for this," audience response showed otherwise.

MP3: The Wedding Present – "Falling" (the b-side to the 1992 single "Silver Shorts")

Photo is actually from The Wedding Present’s DC show, courtesy Information Leafblower‘s Flickr photostream.