American indie rock is a different beast, because it has more auteurs — think Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Mangum, Stephin Merritt, Warren Defever, even Beck — who draw on unusual and idiosyncratic sources. But UK indie still seems to revolve around a four or five mates (plus, occasionally and injudiciously, someone's ex-girlfriend) who just draw on previous generations of UK indie bands. Once I get the feeling that a song belongs to this self-absorbed genre, my question is whether it's fit to feature in the same league as the 1986-88 incarnation of The Wedding Present. Those that are… well, I could be cautious and say they can be counted on the fingers of one hand, but, right now, I can't think of enough to count on the fingers of one finger.
George Best is pretty near perfect, but this 12" EP may be even better. (Lucky consumers these days don't have to choose between them, as both are together on one ridiculously cheap CD.)
"We like playing fast," guitarist Peter Solowka used to say, before he left to form The Ukrainians (who played fast all the time — I saw them once in Melkweg in Amsterdam in 1993, almost by accident). It's the combination of that ridiculously fast strumming, which sounds like it's got the furies on its tail, and Gedge's guttural West Yorkshire Arrgghhhoowwwws that lifts these songs of kitchen-sink-affairs gone wrong into the realm of Tolstoy of Dostoyevsky.
OK, OK, I know. The world doesn't need another third-rate Paul Morley imitator. But seriously, perhaps someone should do a Barthesian analysis of those paralinguistic guttural Arrghhs, how sometimes they work and sometimes they just sound daft. We could chart the rise of the Huh! (through Edwin Starr's War (What is it good for?)) to its fall (through being flogged to death by Frankie Goes to Hollywood), via its acme (Graham Bonnet's Huuuhhh at the end of the bridge of Rainbow's Since You've Been Gone sounds like he's just been thumped in the solar plexus — at the same time as suffering a nasty bout of constipation).
I digress, slightly. But the point is, if I were to hear your average skinny-boy indie band singing,
"There's so much to lose, and we will lose it all" I'd feel the urge to tell them to stop whingeing and grow up. When The Wedding Present sing that line, I take a step back, and swallow hard. When Gedge sings, "Each letter the postman brings might be from you," I feel his desperation. Years ago, I had a dream where I felt the touch of my ex-lover's skin. It was uncannily… tangible, and it stayed with me for a day or more afterwards. I was a glad there was a song, Don't Laugh (no, really, please don't!), ready made to help me digest it,
Don't laugh, don't even sigh
I touched your skin last night
But your half of the bed was empty
So I guess I must have dreamt it
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Listen to this album in full at We7