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Album Review

The pairing of the Wedding Present and engineer Steve Albini on 1991's Seamonsters was an inspired move on the group's part. His ultra-loud and thudding sound was a perfect match for a batch of David Gedge's most soul crushing songs in a career full of them. Revisiting Albini's studio proves to be a similarly wise move in 2008 for the band's seventh album, El Rey. Any traces of Gedge's previous band, Cinerama, have been wiped away, and who better than Albini to cleanly and loudly record another batch of intense and heart-rending songs? The guitar sounds the band employ are not as extreme as those on Seamonsters: the drums aren't as brutal and the overall feel is more subdued and mature (it is 17 long years later, after all), but the end result is still one of the Wedding Present's strongest, most emotionally powerful albums to date. The band is tight and dynamic, playing with delicate restraint at times and building huge slabs of noise at others. Gedge and new guitarist Chris McConville sound possessed by real fury, ripping off nasty solos and thundering chords that give the already dramatic songs a real punch. Gedge's insight into the affairs of the broken-hearted has only grown sharper with age, and his studies in frustration and confusion unspool like a short story collection. Unlike on Seamonsters, there is a thread of wistful humor running through this album, especially on the story-song "Don't Take Me Home Until I'm Drunk," and the snappy, should-be hit single "The Thing I Like Most About Him Is His Girlfriend." He may put off some listeners by how intensely personal he can be, but by now you are either along for the ride, or you never will be. And if you've been sticking by the group for long, you'll be rewarded by El Rey's brutal honesty, hard-won wisdom, and first-rate songcraft, and you'll relish the sound of a band trying to recapture a brilliant sound from their past and succeeding completely.

Biography

Formed: 1985 in Leeds, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Emerging in the wake of the Smiths' demise as the U.K.'s most successful indie pop band during the late '80s, the Wedding Present were founded in Leeds, England, in 1985. Formed from the ashes of the short-lived Lost Pandas, the Weddoes (as they were affectionately dubbed by fans) were essentially the vehicle of singer/songwriter David Gedge, the only constant member throughout the group's tumultuous history. Initially rounded out by guitarist Peter Solowka, bassist Keith Gregory, and drummer Shaun...
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