Given that The Wedding Present has been making ragged, jangly rock for several decades now, it might be unreasonable to expect it to continue to deliver the frenetic energy it brought to its debut album, George Best, or its soon-to-follow compilation of earlier cuts, Tommy. For a group held together through numerous line-up changes by the force of frontman David Gedge (who himself set aside the group in favor of another project, Cinerama, for an extended break around the turn of the century), The Wedding Present is carrying on ably. Still, if this listener is any indication, casual fans never roped into Gedge’s work of the 1990s or 2000s are likely to hear in Valentina the decelerating weight of age.
Gedge’s wryly stilted voice and clever turns of hook are still on display, but without the frantic guitar of Pete Solowka from the group’s early lineup, the songs are a bit too slow and heavy — too much ’90s alt-rock and too little ’80s C86. The hard rocking numbers such as “Back a Bit…Stop” and “You Jane” are not without melody, pounding percussion, or aggressive, distorted guitar. But it’s the relatively languorous, chugging numbers that define the sound of the album as a whole. “I’ve been using you / All this time / It’s not that I don’t adore you (because I do) / But I’ve realized / That I don’t think I’m / Ever gonna leave my girlfriend (for you),” Gedge croons over chunky guitar that fills the refrains of the rollicking number “The Girl from the DDR.” As on many of the album’s tracks, the music and words here are no more or less than mildly amusing and shallowly endearing.
“The things I’m saying here I won’t regret / Because I miss you even if we never met,” says Gedge on “524 Fidelio.” Likewise, one needn’t have ever been fully acquainted with the early Wedding Present to sense now what’s been lost.