Thursday 6 May 2021

WET WET WET: Picture This


(#524: 22 April 1995, 3 weeks)


Track listing: Julia Says/After The Love Goes/Somewhere Somehow/Gypsy Girl/Don’t Want To Forgive Me Now/She Might Never Know/Someone Like You/Love Is My Shepherd/She’s All On My Mind/Morning/Home Tonight/Love Is All Around


In March 1995, The Boo Radleys and Wet Wet Wet happened to have been booked in to appear on the same edition of Top Of The Pops. Seeing Marti Pellow emerge from his dressing room, the Radleys screamed “Marti! Marti!,” etc., at him, in the teenybopper style. A thoroughly baffled Pellow took one look at these miscreants who were clearly and fully unknown to him, frowned sternly and retreated into the dressing room post-haste.


I find myself baffled in a similar fashion by Picture This, in which the Wets appear to have erected their white flag and surrendered to becoming the cabaret turn that they probably all wanted to have been in the first place. These songs aren’t quite Michael Bolton schlock but they are pretty uniform in nature (and most of them sound to be in the same key). Yes, they presumably have things to say but obfuscate them with so many misty mixed metaphors that young Conservatives would treat them as nothing more than a benign background soundtrack to dinner parties.


There are touches of country for secret Sydney Devine fans, hints of harmonic and vocal menace in “Someone Like You” (Pellow’s prematurely-exhausted grunt of “Hell, yeah!”) and a potentially very strong ballad (“Love Is My Shepherd”) which really requires Mary J Blige to light its torch. But all of it drifts by so harmlessly that it causes the brain harm. The subtext might be a break-up, although the rather patronising “Julia Says” is not exactly worthy of Lou Reed at his unworthiest.


In any event, the rest of the album is more or less rendered redundant by its final track. How many times did people want their “Love Is All Around”? The nearly two million copies that the single sold? The 900,000 copies that their greatest hits album, which ends with the same track, sold? The 750,000 copies that the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack sold? Picture This likewise went triple platinum, anyway.


This relentless urge of people to purchase and listen to the same piece of music over and over again renders me disappointed in humanity. I’m surprised the group didn’t do “The Twelfth Of Never.” Or perhaps Anthony Bourdain offered the definitive diagnosis of this politely determinist mindset: “And weekend diners are universally viewed with suspicion, even contempt, by both cooks and waiters alike; they're the slackjaws, the rubes, the out-of-towners, the well-done-eating, undertipping, bridge-and-tunnel pre-theater hordes, in to see Cats or Les Mz and never to return” (from Kitchen Confidential).


It’s those “weekend rubes” who dominate the universe of number one albums, wanting nothing more than minute variations on the same comforting pillow of pabulum. After all, they pay extra for the privilege; does anyone else remember how much compact discs cost in the nineties, and the scant change which you received in exchange for a twenty-pound note? They want value for their hard-earned cash. It’s not our fault that their concept of value is so transitory and shallow. A pity. Wet Wet Wet, who vanish from this tale after today, indicate how little compromise endures. What you do now recall more immediately; “Wake Up Boo!” or anything on Picture This that isn’t “Love Is All Around”?


A salutary lesson for today.