The Wolfgang Press: Unremembered Remembered (4AD)

The Wolfgang Press

Sometimes artists cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to their own work. They will release substandard material while thinking it to be their best. In turn, artists have been known to shelve their best material because something about It did not satisfy. Unremembered Remembered offers up the final recordings of British band The Wolfgang Press, a belated postscript for one of 4AD’s most notable acts.

In 1996, the band quietly disbanded.  Keyboard player Mark Cox had left shortly before the release of their final album, 1995’s Funky Little Demons, but the band soldiered on. Their prior album, 1991’s Queer, brought the band international success with the single “A Girl Like You,” resulting in the band being able to build their own recording studio. With no limits on them, they would spend the next two years working on Queer‘s follow-up. Unsurprisingly, Funky Little Demons felt bloated and overcooked, a mere shadow of the album’s innovative predecessor.

Listening to Unremembered Remembered, one wonders if vocalist Mick Allen and guitarist Andrew Gray felt the same way. The six songs here abandon the overwrought dance sound of Funky Little Demons in favor of rawer melodies akin to their superb breakthrough album, 1988’s Bird Wood Cage. The EP kicks off with what’s easily one of the band’s finest numbers, “You Say You Love Me,” a grinding, seductive breakup song that features Allen’s lyrics doused in razor-sharp guitars. It’s the most finished-sounding song of the lot, with strong, confident vocals and a tight arrangement.

In comparison, the other five songs here sound a bit rougher, but by no means do they sound inferior. If anything, they highlight the duo’s creative process.  “God, Let It Shine On” and “My Mother Told Me” have a tentative feel; the lyrics sound finished, but the duo haven’t fleshed out the arrangements. The final three songs seem to be the opposite; the musical ideas are complete, but Allen is still working on the lyrics. “Black Hole Star” is a funky rocker reminiscent of Bird Wood Cage, a fun song in the making. While “Liar” and “Miss HIV” sound the most incomplete, even in an unfinished state, both prove quite compelling. Darker and denser, both songs hearken back to the band’s post-punk days–much more than their previous three albums. Yet both numbers blend their earlier sound with the aesthetics of their dance-oriented later work in a most intriguing way.

One can certainly understand why the band split: a key member left, their last album proved a bit of a disappointment, and longtime label 4AD had dropped them. While their motivation may have been drained, Unremembered Remembered shows that The Wolfgang Press had yet to lose their inspiration.

Purchase The Wolfgang Press Unremembered Remembered: 4AD Records

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