Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Sundays

Listening to The Sundays on a Sunday just now leads me to re-post this. Song(s) of the day from a couple of years back.

There are a lot of strange things about reviewing things in my collection on here. Firstly the age of some of the records themselves. This is over twenty five years old, ridiculous for something that sounds so young and which I didn't feel so young myself when I heard it for the first time.  It's more than half as old as my current age. Secondly, the whole ritual of listening to music for the first time in years and finding myself hurtling back to when I first bought it and played it. That's a quite uncanny experience which I had again when playing this last thing last night for the first time in years.

The Sundays themselves were a strange phenomenon all round. Their songwriting core, Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin  were a couple of Bristol University graduates, not generally accepted fodder for Rock and Roll. They looked just like the kind of people you might find sitting opposite you on a commuter train. They'd come to the game relatively late in the day, almost as an afterthought, releasing their first single on Rough Trade when they were already in their mid-Twenties.

They made up for lost time. This record was huge in British terms when it was released. It topped the Independent Chart for two months and immediately garnered the attention of Radio 1 night-time radio and the music papers, the two requisites for breaking through then.

Unlike most of the bands around them at the time The Sundays seemed quite happy with the way things were, which was pretty unusual for a British group looking to make it in the late Eighties. There was no 'Hang the DJ', 'Kiss me where the sun don't shine' or 'we want to get loaded' here. The lyrics of lead song Can't Be Sure are almost a definition of Middle England conformity.

'Give me a story and give me a bed
Give me possessions
Oh love, luck and money they go to my head like wildfire
It's good to have something to live for, you'll find
Live for tomorrow
Live for a job and a perfect behind, high time

England my country, the home of the free
Such miserable weather
But England's as happy as England can be
Why cry?'

But still, it's brilliantly constructed and recorded. The way the guitars chime, the bass ticks and the drums shudder, the wonderful vocals the way its hooks are withheld. It still holds you. Beautifully contained. Second track  I Kicked a Boy is astonishingly in debt to Johnny Marr, Wheeler's singing very affected, that Cocteau Twins manner that was everywhere at that point. The third track is called Don't Tell Your Mother. This was hardly The Rolling Stones. 

The band went on to record an album called Reading, Writing & Arithmetic, the title of which attracted the ire of indie wild man Bobby Gillespie. I doubt if they cared. They were playing to a different constituency. They had a pretty successful career by the standards of the time, did well in the States, released records every few years on their own terms. Then Wheeler and Gavurin packed it all in to concentrate on raising a family. Their kids should be approaching university age themselves. There's talk of the band reforming.

I'm not really knocking them. It's a very contented record and a very good one. I love its still-life sleeve of bruised apples and pears. It took me back. I'm very glad I've got it, and had that moment of rediscovery with it, appropriately on a Sunday. But now it's Monday, not a very happy one judging by the raindrops streaking down my windowpane and my own conformity demands that I get going. I imagine The Sundays would understand, and possible secretly approve. Though of course I can't be sure...

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