heard on the wire

C is for…

Cinerama, whose three LPs and collection of singles form, to my mind, the most consistently brilliant collection of recordings since Joy Division, each track worthy of a blog post of its own.

In the space of seven years, the band released three LPs and a dozen or so singles that managed a credible lack of chart success or mainstream critical acclaim, both of which are the kind of wholly admirable endorsements that more bands should seek.

And we’re lucky to have them, since the band happened almost by accident. It was originally a mere side project of David Gedge, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Wedding Present, and his girlfriend Sally Murrell.

Largely eschewing the hard-edged, guitar-driven epic pop of his previous work, Gedge adopted a rounder, fuller, more orchestral sound—one that some have labelled “baroque pop”—heavily influenced by the music of the cinema and Bond-theme composer John Barry in particular. The first recordings were made with a clutch of session musicians miscellaneous talents including Emma Pollock of the Delgadoes. The first single, Kerry Kerry, was released in 1998, three different versions offering four different b-sides, including this track, which touches the heights that the band would reach many times over the following six years.

Cinerama :: Au Pair

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A second single, Dance, Girl, Dance, followed and again it was the b-side that confirmed, if confirmation were needed, that John Peel was right when he said that Gedge, “has written some of the best love songs of the rock ’n’ roll era.”

So good I’ve played it twice

Cinerama :: Crusoe

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Both a-sides appeared on the band’s debut along player released the same year. Va Va Voom confirmed that the project had legs. In a year that Mercury Rev, Beck and Air featured among the NME’s top 10 LPs, Va Va Voom’s pop sensibilities were a breath of freshness. It failed to make the NME’s top 50; I stopped reading the NME around the same time.

Cinerama :: Hard, Fast and Beautiful

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A third single followed, featuring Pacific and this heartbreaking vignette.

Cinerama :: Kings Cross

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The fourth single was the first of a series of outstanding releases by the band in 2000. True to form, Manhattan was accompanied by two magnificent b-sides, an astonishing cover of The Smiths’ London and this.

Cinerama :: Film

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By this time the band was no longer a side project. Gedge and Murrell had recruited former-Wedding Present guitarist Simon Cleave and the Goya Dress’s Terry de Castro and Simon Pearson, bass player and drummer respectively, as permanent members of the now-permanent Cinerama.

The next single was Wow, its b-side the only song I’ve ever heard mention the international standard for women’s hosiery.

Cinerama :: 10 Denier

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Wow was the first from the second LP, Disco Volante, which continued the Bond theme, taking its name from the bad guy’s boat in Thunderball. And this is the point at which I realise I’ve set myself the near-impossible task of selecting a track from one of the best records ever made.

Cinerama :: Après Ski

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2001 saw the release of two singles, Superman…

Cinerama :: Superman

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…and a US-only release of Health and Efficiency, a new song that didn’t get a UK release until the following year, coupled with this version of the greatest of all Bond themes. The band would go on to produce a series of brilliant covers.

Cinerama :: Diamonds Are Forever

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But it was merely a teaser, for 2002 was when the band gave us a record that touches perfection. From the raucous guitar of Carless to the delicate filigree of Health and a Efficiency, Torino is immaculate, an LP that only Joy Division’s Closer can top. If anyone ever asks what bittersweet means, play them this record. And I thought choosing a song from Disco Volante was difficult.

Cinerama :: Get up and Go

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Sadly, but perhaps appropriately, Torino was to be Cinerama’s last long player, though we didn’t know it at the time, not least because the following year the band released a valedictory single that gave Gedge his first Festive Fifty number one in the last year that his number one fan, John Peel, would present his annual rundown of his listeners’ favourite songs. The title could not have been more appropriate.

Cinerama :: Don’t Touch that Dial

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The band had, of course, recorded numerous Peel sessions, the last of which was broadcast early in 2004. It proved to be the their swan-song.

Cinerama :: Nickles and Dimes

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By the time they returned to the BBC’s Maida Vale studios later in the year, Gedge and Murrell had split up and what was scheduled to be the next Cinerama session became the twelfth and last for the reconstituted Wedding Present. Cinerama were the band that got away.

Cinerama :: The One that Got Away

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And what better way to close any blog post than with the song that closes Torino?

Cinerama :: Health and Efficiency

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Photo: Cinerama / First Line-Up / Cafe by Scopitones.

Related posts: A is for Adam and the Ants; B is for Scotland.


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