When David Gedge put the Wedding Present on hiatus in 1998 to
concentrate on a new project, Cinerama, his longtime fans were left
scratching their heads. After all, the Weddoes had cycled through
nearly a dozen members since debuting in the mid-'80s, and Gedge was
very much the auteur behind their every song, his distinctive voice
and guitar omnipresent. So why the need for the new brand name?
Two albums, two compilations, and many singles into his new career,
the answer is becoming clearer. Cinerama's work tends to be both
poppier and more experimental than most of the Wedding Present's
(notable exception: 1994's Watusi). Strings, horns and
keyboards to which Gedge refers collectively as
"orchestrations" are prominent, along with occasional snippets
of "found" dialogue reminiscent of film soundtracks, and female
vocals from Gedge's longtime partner Sally Murrell.
In terms of subject matter, too, things have changed. Where three out
of every four Weddoes songs were about being dumped by a girl, that
percentage has dropped significantly; Gedge even approaches Serge
Gainsbourg territory with his erotically charged lyrics. (One of the
new B-sides, "Swim," even finds the narrator making a cuckold of
"Health & Efficiency," member of a dying breed of standalone
(non-album) singles, exemplifies the distinctions between Gedge's
former and current bands. A slow, delicately picked and strummed
guitar introduction plays for more than a minute over scarcely
decipherable dialogue before the orchestrations kick in. "And we ate
peaches in this very place/ The juice was running down your face"
goes the opening couplet, softly sung and followed shortly by "We
tried to make love by this lake/ I remember you began to shake/ And I
was far too scared to ask if you were coming." A few more lyrical
lines, then a thundering distorted guitar joins in, battling with and
drowning out the oddly complementary string sounds. With that, the
song locks into its slow groove, with alternating quiet and loud
passages and delicate percussion the kind of dynamics one
expects of a Steve Albini release, though Gedge later adds the
orchestrations back home in England with the assistance of Dare Mason.
There's almost something perverse about releasing such a pretty but
noncommercial song as a single, especially when the CD includes a
radio edit version that doesn't seem destined to receive much
airplay. More likely to get some on-air spins (at least on college
and independent stations) are the B-sides. "Swim" is a fairly
straightforward rock tune with rubbery bass, surf-style lead guitar,
and a bit of organ on the chorus. "Diamonds Are Forever" offers
novelty value as another interesting cover Gedge has taken on
not as neat as the Weddoes covers of "The Theme From Shaft" or Julee
Cruise's "Falling" (you know, that "Twin Peaks" song), but certainly
a unique take on a James Bond theme. The single also includes an
acoustic, French-sung version.
The three songs on the "Health & Efficiency" single offer a concise
introduction to the 21st-century work of David Gedge and Cinerama.
Wedding Present fans who found Cinerama's debut too polished will
appreciate the grit of this release; those who have kept the faith
with Cinerama will hail this little stunner, which ended up placing
third overall in British DJ John Peel's listener-voted Festive Fifty
songs of 2001. To say that the wonders found on this release portend
even greater things for Cinerama's third album, due later this year,
would be wild speculation, but for an artist with nearly 20 years'
service time, continuing to explore and develop so much makes Gedge a