Is That What You Call A Dalliance? Seamonsters Turns 30

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The Wedding Present – Seamonsters

Released May 27th, 1991 on RCA Records

Produced by Steve Albini

Peaked at #13 U.K.

Singles:

“Dalliance” (#29 U.K.)

“Lovenest” (#59 U.K.)

In 2021, Rough Trade Records is a big deal. They’re the home to such big modern acts as Black Midi, Sleaford Mods, Dean Blunt, and Parquet Courts. They’re legendary; anyone who’s anyone has been associated with the label at some point, including such luminaries as Arcade Fire, The Fall, Galaxie 500, the Hold Steady, and My Morning Jacket. In 1986 they were only eight years old, though. That was the year that they teamed up with a number of NME writers (back when NME was cool) to try to put a face to the underground independent scene that was causing no small amount of excitement amongst the painfully hip kids of the time. The result was a compilation cassette tape named C86 that has gone down through the years as putting a genre name (alongside “shambling”, thanks to John Peel) to the jangly, power-pop indebted sound of the time. There are a number of recognizable bands on the comp: Primal Scream led the whole thing off, and it also featured songs by The Bodines, the Mighty Lemon Drops, Shop Assistants, and the Mackenzies. Right at the end, 22 songs in, is “This Boy Can Wait” by the Wedding Present.

Aside from Primal Scream, obviously, Dave Gedge’s The Wedding Present are probably the most successful band on the entire compilation. Although there was some concern that they were selling out in 1989 when they put out their first album for major-label RCA, their second album, Seamonsters, was produced by Steve Albini and was a stripped-down, heavy-hitting collection of that jangly indie power-pop that fell loosely under the C86 label. Albini had produced the album’s preceding single, “Brassneck”, and the two felt like an absolute winning combination. The producer snipped the more twee moments out of the band’s sound and in return Gedge and Co. brought an electrifying collection of songs about love, lust, and revenge. For the first time, the intensity and power of the performances matched the gloom and doom of Gedge’s lyrics; his hoarse shouting on “Heather” points the way to so many subsequent indie bands that it’s a real surprise that more people don’t list the band as influences.

Seamonsters remains the band’s highwater mark in terms of albums. They would famously release 12 singles for RCA in 1992 and reach the Top 40 in the U.K. with all of them, tying Elvis for the record. Despite this, they were back to the indie label world by the late 1990s as tastes shifted toward big pop and hip hop. Of course, “indie labels” can mean a lot of things and in this case it was Cooking Vinyl, whose list of artists both past and present is almost as impressive as Rough Trade’s. Still, there is a sense (for me anyway) that the band got a raw deal over the years; they did everything right, did it with passion, and still ended up in the dust bin of history. So celebrate a big anniversary and blast this one as loud as it deserves.

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