Album Reviews: The Wedding Present, Frankie Rose, Breton and James Horner

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The Wedding Present

Valentina.

The new album by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present sees them on familiar ground with melodic yet relentless guitar riffs underpinning David Gedge’s tales of romantic angst (surely one man can’t have had so many bad relationships?).

At times on Valentina the production is so stripped down that it feels almost uncomfortably intrusive, like you’ve walked in on Gedge while he’s belting out a few lyrics in his living room. Not unless you were incredibly proud of your songs would you choose to have the vocals so up front, and proud he should be. Valentina has echoes of songs from the near 30-year back catalogue of the Wedding Present yet sounds completely fresh.

Back a Bit... Stop wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their debut album George Best, whilst the guitar work on Deer Caught in the Headlights and You Jane would turn the head of many a Wombats and Vaccines fan.

I must confess that with every new Wedding Present release I think it’s going to be the one that I’m not going to love but Valentina is definitely not that album. Despite a lack of real commercial success Gedge continues to create consistently good music.

Long may the love affair continue.

Frankie Rose

INTERSTELLAR

Ditching the garage rock stylings of former bands Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and Crystal Stilts and the Spector-esque wall of sound of her 2010 solo debut, Frankie Rose’s new album features a heady and appealing blend of futuristic dream pop, Cocteau Twins shimmer, 50s girl group harmonies and 80s indie band jangle.

Much like the spaces between the stars that the album’s title references, her songs are like the Hubble space telescope’s pictures of fantastic formations of space dust – lovely, but also strangely insubstantial and ephemeral.

The best example of this, and a highlight of the album, is Pair Of Wings, a scintillating mix of Vangelis, Enya and Karen Carpenter that’s essentially an extended chorus that builds and builds like the pressure of a held breath before evaporating into nothing.

Breton

Other People’s Problems

Breton are a bunch of hoodie-wearing sonic rabble-rousers who work out of a disused bank in London. From this suitably isolated, austerely functional HQ they craft stirring songs that simmer with unrest and urban dislocation.

The sound seems initially at odds with their art school background and interest in surrealism (they’re named after Surrealism kingpin Andre Breton) but, as founder member Roman Rappak explained to us in a recent interview, “I think that urban environments are very surreal. We live, rehearse and record in a building that is very strange and you get some pretty insane people around here.”

Against a backdrop of grainy electronics, dramatic orchestral cut-ups and gritty, rigidly quantized beats, the band stealthily feed in cryptic guitar-based songs that seem to hint at both regret for things that have happened in the past, and a firm resolve about things about to happen. So while the melancholy 2 Years intriguingly insists “Whatever happens, don’t ask who we’re here to see”, the track Electrician demands to know “Why are they trying to salvage/What we’ll be leaving at the side of the road?”.

It’s this knack with lyrical hooks, along with the startling beats and samples, and submerged, naggingly insistent melodies, that make Breton so strangely compelling. With repeated listens you start to see through the brutalist exterior to the tender young hearts underneath.

JAMES HORNER

Titanic: Anniversary Edition

ROBIN GIBB AND RJ GIBB

The Titanic Requiem

IT appears we’ve all gone Titanic crazy, and it’s hit the music world too.

To coincide with James Cameron’s big screen epic getting the 3D treatment, James Horner’s original, appropriately bombastic and melodramatic score has been remastered to give all that anvil clanking even more clarity.

Of most interest, but destined not to reach the ears of the highbrow listeners who’d enjoy it most, is the bonus CD that accompanies the ‘Collector’s Edition’ of the soundtrack.

This contains genteel period music recorded by the quintent I Salonisti and subsequently ‘performed’ in the film by the Titanic’s house band. It comprises 15 pieces selected from the original White Star Line playlist by music historian John Altman including Song Of Autumn, which was rumoured to be the actual tune playing as the vessel sank beneath the waves.

The Titanic Requiem is a curious affair, a full-scale orchestral work composed largely by RJ Gibb, son of Bee Gee Robin.

It’s ambitious and well-executed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and vocalists Mario Frangoulis and Isabel Suckling, but you’d have share RJ’s fascination with the whole Titanic saga to find the music involving.