The Wedding Present, who formed in Leeds, England, in 1985, is one of British alternative rock’s longest-running bands. They’re also among its most consistently high-quality. Singer/guitarist David Gedge still writes about the intricacies of romantic love with great humor, insight, and style, and the band still backs his lovelorn tales with a ferocious but controlled take on super-dynamic pop arrangements. When the Weddos “take it up a notch,” it usually elevates a song to a dramatic height that you just don’t see coming. How they manage to surprise this late in the game is partly down to Gedge’s ever-evolving and creative songwriting, and partly down to the strength—physical strength, I mean—of the other musicians in the band. The lyrics might be dealing with affairs of the heart and mind, but the riffs here are all about hammering forearms and pumping legs. You sweat at a Wedding Present show, whether you’re on stage or in the audience.
Drummer Charles Layton has been with the group since 2009, and he clearly relishes both the subtle idiosyncrasies and the grand gestures of Gedge’s songs. It’s Layton you hear first on the band’s most recent studio album, Valentina, pumping out the powerful floor tom/snare intro to “You’re Dead.” Beyond being a vote of confidence in Layton, it’s a neat clue to the drummer’s approach on the rest of the album—like Gedge’s lyrics, the part isn’t self-consciously clever, but it’s not quite standard fare either. And it’s smart. Other equally intense and thoughtful moments are strewn across the disc, such as the playful surface-shifting on “You Jane” and the insistent full-kit 7/8 verse beat of “524 Fidelio.”
The Wedding Present has been working within a certain set of parameters for a long time, but they’ve managed to keep their music sounding fresh and inspired with intelligence and muscle. It’s a formula many of us are happy to rely on year after year, and as long as there are musicians of the caliber of Charles Layton on board, there’s no reason we should expect it to stop any time soon.