By: Eric G.
Is the fact that Cinerama’s second album shares the same name as the second Mr. Bungle album a coincidence or a tribute? Surely, it’s the former because I can hardly imagine David Gedge, worldly musician that he is, rocking out to unpredictable punk/metal/funk fusion. Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows? It’s not like Gedge doesn’t know how to rock out. The man honed his rock chops in The Wedding Present for over a decade, strumming his guitar fast enough to make himself go blind. But, alas, he got the girl and now Burt Bacharach, French art films, and 60’s photography keep him occupied.
For Wedding Present fans the only similarities rest in Gedge’s eccentric, conversational vocal style. The music is a different beast altogether. It’s unabashedly pop- and retro-pop at that. Strings and horns adorn Gedge’s quirky, self-conscious songs, but they are less pronounced than they were on Va Va Voom (Cinerama’s debut). Strangely, Gedge employed Steve Albini to produce Disco Volante. Gedge and Albini go way back (Albini produced The Wedding Present’s masterpiece, Sea Monsters, in 1991), but Albini’s abrasive, bottom-heavy technique thickens Cinerama’s light-hearted approach, perhaps, too much.
There’s no denying Gedge’s pop sensibility. He bleeds ace tunes. Always has. Gedge played the hapless lover role very well in The Wedding Present, making it easy to relate to his self-deprecation and unease. With Cinerama Gedge is in a much better mood, but unlike most songwriters after they get the girl, Gedge still has an edge. Disco Volante hints at the fact that maybe Gedge misses kicking the distortion pedal a bit. The juice is noticeably turned up. There was nary a discordant note on Va Va Voom, but along with Albini’s thundering production and slightly harsher dynamics Cinerama seems to be incorporating some noise into its clever love songs.
As hook-heavy as the songs on Disco Volante are, it’s still an album that takes a few listens to warm up to. “146 Degrees” pins a melodic, reverb-drenched guitar line against jaunty rhythms. Gedge’s double-tracked vocals soar in the chorus. “Your Charms” is vintage Gedge with a chord progression that’s just as catchy as the vocals: “And darling/I just can’t think clearly/it happens when I’m in your arms/my heart is pounding/how pathetic is this sounding?” Gedge just seems freer with Cinerama to explore his musical interests, whereas he may have felt stifled by The Wedding Present’s stricter pop formula.
“Unzip” is one of Gedge’s charming attempts at being seductive. He uses his strangely entreating falsetto to good effect. I just can’t imagine Steve Albini behind the boards recording this. Maybe, he’s not so mean after all. “Because I’m Beautiful” allows Gedge’s girlfriend and Cinerama partner, Sally Murrell, to share some of the spotlight. She has a simple, inoffensive voice that plays off Gedge’s distinctive inflection well. She seems to ground some of Gedge’s quirks. “Wow” is an obvious bone-throw to Wedding Present fans. The guitars are full-throttle in all the right spots, and Gedge teases us as he tiptoes around the pitch of his patented, exaggerated yowl.
The Wedding Present was always an underdog band notorious for its label fiascos. Cinerama is two albums for two labels so far, but I hope that’s not indicative of the same old story for Gedge. Actually, I hope it is; I’d hate to see him change.