By: Kerry Mitchell- Special London Correspondent
While Cinerama’s debut Va Va Voom and, to some extent, the follow-up, Disco Volante, saw David Gedge shedding his frenetic strumming, angular rhythms, and frantic time changes in an attempt to distance himself from his previous band, his current band's new long player, Torino, seems to be an open invitation to former Wedding Present fans to reconsider Gedge’s latest incarnation- not as an abandoning of The Wedding Present as much as a natural extension of it. A spin-off, of sorts, and one worthy of serious consideration, Torino serves as a suitable intersection for aging Wedding Present fans and the recently acquired Cinerama audience by melding Gedge’s Bacharach-esque melodies and clever lyrics with some of the urgency of latter day Wedding Present songs.
Gedge has clearly come to terms with his past and has even incorporated several Wedding Present tunes into the Cinerama set list (something that would have seemed trite and pandering after the first album). If the standing-room-only crowd at Dingwalls served as any indication, Torino has clearly caught the ear of the old-schoolers, who arrived clad in their Wedding Present garb from days of yore, forming a 100% cotton Gedge-time-line (how they keep their decade old t-shirts in such pristine condition is beyond me).
Amusingly, Cinerama always seems to rock out more in concert than on its albums and many in the crowd were definitely not expecting the energetic response the band received. At one point during The Wedding Present classic "Corduroy", the crowd rushed the stage so powerfully that the microphone smacked Gedge in the forehead and caused a bit of a row before the band picked up again as tight as if someone had simply moved the needle on a record. Gedge seemed comfortable with the crowd and confidently bantered about being a “pop star." He also commented dryly about the clear need for a larger venue and Cinerama's being snubbed by the larger UK summer festivals. Perhaps, he secretly yearns for the salad days of Top Of The Pops and strings of charting hits- the latter of which may not be far from reach with the new material, despite the current musical climate.
Upon first listen, the embracing of his past and the playful yet more mature lyrics (in content and quality), as well as the subject matter, could be construed as the result of a middle-aged crisis, but further listens, in conjunction with the previous two albums, reveal that Torino is clearly the result of a very natural progression. Cinerama has aged like a fine cheese. Songs such as "Get Up And Go" show Gedge turning his wry eye upon modern day love affairs, incorporating SMS messaging and mobile phone “beeps” into his crafty lyrics. The further addition of strings ("Airborne") as well as flutes and horns ("Tie Me Up") into several songs add a welcomed depth, confidence, and sophistication without seeming forced or clichéd. Steve Albini’s production is, as always, very conspicuous and yet not overtly showy. Gedge is clearly paying for the production and ultimately gets his way.
The stand out rocker "Two Girls" could almost fit snugly on a commercial modern rock playlist with its driving guitars, soft/loud dynamic and catchy hooks. "Careless" seems reminiscent of Watusi-era Wedding Present with its chorus of “I’m not still in love with you” repeated over the patented Gedge strum. "Starry Eyed" and "Get Up And Go" wouldn’t seem out of place on Disco Volante or Va Va Voom, though the former packs quite a punch when the chorus kicks in. While Torino is most definitely not a Wedding Present album by any stretch of the imagination, it should win back some of the die-hard older fans that may have boycotted Cinerama at the onset.
An obsession with infidelity, fantasy relationships, tawdry sex, and jealousy could grow tiresome in the hands of a less skilled lyricist, but Gedge deftly manages to sculpt each song into a wholly original vignette, replete with cunning word play, clever lyrical structure, and wry cynicism. The comparisons to Bacharach, Gainsbourg and Spector have been hard earned and are well deserved.