Not an experience you are often likely to repeat.
When you start listening to the Wedding Present’s Going, Going…, you may, for a moment, think you’ve accidentally cued up a Melvins record. Unlike anything they’ve done before, this 20-track concept album follows David Gedge (now 56) as he and his wife travelled across the United States. It’s not clear whether the order of the tracks follows the order of their experiences, but if so, it can be concluded that Kittery, Maine is a rough, sparse and desolate place.
“Kittery” opens up with a light fog of ambience which gradually resolves into picked electric guitar. Like the coastal weather, it shifts again to a storm of buzzing guitar feedback and climbing organ notes. There is nothing about this that would indicate you’re listening to a Wedding Present record, and given the charms that made the band appealing to their unusually loyal fanbase in the first place, it’s entirely possible that audiences will be at a loss for where Gedge is taking them.
“Greenland” plods with a minimal drum beat punctuated by a GPS that reads off coordinates. Meanwhile, “Marblehead” presents a beautiful vocal harmony that’s isolated and comforting, accompanied by something marginally more akin to popular music. It’s at this point that we start to gain some confidence back that Gedge hasn’t gone completely off the deep end with self-indulgent experimentation. “Sprague” takes it a step further with an instrumental piano and strings melody—yes, piano and strings—which begins to feel like it’s all been a bad dream. Surely, the jangly heart-on-your-sleeve angst of “Brassneck” and “Take Me!” are right around the corner?
“Two Bridges” and “Little Bear” mark the return of the Wedding Present that the indie music community adores. There’s a brief run of exactly the sort of songs we might expect—the fast strums, noodling vocal style and distorted, moody guitar and bass. But “Secretary” again reminds us that this is an experimental record, the lurch ahead in both speed and frantic style falls outside the band’s usual parameters of emotional effectiveness. It’s a little more tongue-in-cheek, a little odder, even for this idiosyncratic band. No record is all winners and this track is the first one that makes us question if a double album was really necessary. Thankfully, the barreling old rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities of “Birdsnest” make us easily forget past transgressions. Similar things happen on “Bells,” which sees the band exploring rock roots sounds that evoke memories of the last great experiment, The Hit Parade. That project saw the band putting out multiple consecutive singles rather than a full album (before eventually compiling them). Some of those songs were covers and old favorites and allowed Gedge to get some more traditional forms of rock musicality out of his system. Tracks like “Broken Bow” seem to cover similar territory.
As with “Secretary,” there are also a handful of other filler tracks. The more meandering and singsong elements of the record are also present and, unfortunately, make up the bulk of it. Because of its formatting, the album is best listened to in a playlist on random order, among some other more diverse tracks. Do that and you’ll find moments of more accessible listening before Gedge pops up to tell you a double-strummed story on “Ten Sleep” or pluck you delicately through “Lead”.
Like a trip across the United States, when you arrive at the end of Going, Going… you’re left a little road-worn and weary. There will be fond memories and trying moments, which together make for a great experience, but one you’re not likely to often repeat.