The Wedding Present "You Jane" (Scopitones)
It was nice to see Barney from Napalm Death mention the Wedding Present in a newspaper interview last week, recognition that it wasn't just in my head that the two bands had a certain shared fanbase (no doubt aided immensely by both being staples of the John Peel show in those uncertain days as the 1980s stumbled into the 1990s). It also reminded me that it must now be a cool quarter-century since I was first ridiculed (in a draughty classroom, if I recall rightly) for actually liking the Weddoes, which means that by now my skin has grown so thick on the topic that I effectively wander around sporting a force-field inuring me to their further criticism, the sort of defence technology the military would pay handsomely for (or perhaps more realistically, kill for). Yes, I've slavered over most of their records, keenly monitored their "chartwork" and since first seeing them as an ashen-faced youth at the Astoria on their "Bizarro" tour I've watched them at venues from the Louisiana in Bristol and Top of O'Reilly's in Nottingham to London haunts like the Forum, Koko and ULU.
And then just the other day it turned out there was a new WP single, "You Jane", a taster presumably for forthcoming LP "Valentina" (and, we think, the first "Jane" reference in a Weddoes tune since the girl who was getting rung up during the first verse of "Anyone Can Make A Mistake") and whether you're fan, friend or foe of the fearsome foursome you'll note that the single of course sounds much as one might expect it to. With grinding bass, sweetly buzzing guitars, a soupçon of mournful melody and some sweet backing vocals, "You Jane" is a musical chaperone to the blushing "I'm From Further North Than You": a dainty melange of "George Best", "The Hit Parade" and "Saturnalia", throwing in some Cinerama-ish references to a clutch of anciennes vedettes du cinema. And despite familiar lyrical tics (rhyming "chance" with "romance", etc), "You Jane" actually subverts conventional Gedge subject-matter: as he laments his latest lost lover you're expecting him either to plea for her back or to invite her to cheat with him on her new man, but come the chorus, for once he simply lets go, yawling "don't come crying to me..." over shuffling, backsliding guitar. The only real disappointment is that just when the track appears to be building to ye olde "crashing instrumental end bit" - that solid-as-a-rock feature of Pres classics from "My Favourite Dress" through "Kennedy" to the likes of "Boo Boo" - it instead simply stops, dead. But, as with the novelty of David letting go of a former flame, perhaps it's no bad thing that the Wedding Present, so often called out for playing the same old song, can still confound us in little ways.
Let's be candid: when the Final Day comes and all discographies are judged (by an even higher authority than ourselves) we don't expect "You Jane" to be in the hallowed top hundred Weddoes numbers of all eternity: although it may well be parked just outside, windows slightly steaming, perhaps regretting that it wasn't written in 1992 when the Wedding Present were raiding the top 40 on a monthly basis. What matters, though, is not whether Gedge's talent for making the down-to-earth seem poetic is on a long term wax or wane. It's that the Wedding Present are still here, and still warming so many of us, even as temperatures in the normally balmy City slip below zero. As one of our number said to a visibly hammered Mr Gedge after that Louisiana gig, "You've brought a great deal of pleasure... to very few people". To this day we can only hope that DLG took that as the compliment that was, genuinely, intended.