The thirty-first post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirrelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.
I love The Wedding Present. They're right up with Morrissey as acts that I've seen live the most. In fact tomorrow they'll claim that number one spot for themselves outright, as I go to watch them perform their album Seamonsters in its entirety.
Seamonsters is a funny old album. Released a barely creditable 21 years ago, in the eyes of many it really crystallised a more evolved Weddoes sound. The pure jingle jangle of George Best and Tommy had been left behind, as had the attendant C86-ers it attracted and, via the stepping stone of Bizarro (also bloody excellent, since you ask), David Gedge and his ragged, oft-changing band arrived at this heavier, more intense sound. Vocals were even lower in the mix, if that was possible. Trademark bittersweet Gedge lyrics became still darker. There is enough fuzz and feedback to satisfy anyone in their right (or wrong) mind, perhaps unsurprising with Steve Albini at the helm. All this and more - darker, heavier, brooding. Still recognisably Wedding Present, but not the bright jangly Wedding Present of their earliest recordings. This is a Gedge more cynical, more world-weary, more fatalistic/pessimistic/realistic/all of the above. And it's solid too - this, more than any Weddoes album before or since, feels coherent and stands as a unified body of work.
All of which makes choosing a track from it for today's Clandestine Classic more difficult. I was going to choose Dare first, then Lovenest, then Octopussy, then Dare again. And they are all beyond great. But in the end I chose Dalliance. Why? Because it is the archetypal Seamonsters track - heavy, dripping with menace in it's dark lyrics, full of fuzzy guitars and just the lightest jangly motif to remind you who you're listening to, and with vocals hidden down in the depths, only truly revealed with headphones. And what lyrics! Witness the chorus where Gedge sings:
But do you know how much I miss you?
It's not fair after all you've done
That I'm so...
I still want to kiss you.
As John Peel famously once said, "The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!" And this is a love song... but not of the hearts and flowers variety. More of the bitterness and resentment variety, telling the tale of a love gone bad from which one partner has moved on and one has not. Even the dalliance of the title is ironic, given the broken romance referred to was seven years long, not just a fly-by-night thing. Ironic or, perhaps, just one more twist of the knife.
You can find the original version of Dalliance on the remastered and expanded version of Seamonsters. However, in honour of the fact that I'll be watching Gedge and company perform this live tomorow night, and because a fair proportion of this blog's regular readers are quite likely to have heard Dalliance already, here's an excellent quality live recording, courtesy of the mind-boggling mystery that is YouTube.