Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#900 in the Series) is The Sundays, Reading Writing and Arithmetic
I have never been that big a fan of the MP3 revolution. For one, it put the buying power of music more into “tweens” and teens who for the most part do not have very good taste in music. As a result, the themes in popular music became much less sophisticated. Artists were no longer developed, they were produced because it was no longer albums that mattered but singles. Not to mention, soon shows such as American Idol came along offering to make anyone a “star” as opposed to these people working their way up in the traditional way where you hone and perfect your craft.
Also, these people aren’t musicians but merely singers. Not very rock and roll that’s for sure.
For instance, could Pink Floyd have survived and eventually thrived today? Maybe their brilliance would have transcended it all but I doubt it. Their music is too layered and complex and would be drowned out by unsophisticated ears who listen to awfulness such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and One Direction.
For a long time I also lamented the loss of the “record store.” When music stores were around people had to really listen to the music and decide what to spend their limited income on. Record and CD collections were a source of pride. Now people, brag about having 30,000 songs on their iPod. Like much of the rest of American culture for some idiotic reason quantity and excess has superseded quality.
I’ve somewhat changed my tune, so to speak, however, on the download revolution. Although, I still miss record stores I’ve realized that in many respects the internet is the new record bin and if I’m willing to spend the time I can scour it and find the quality music. One thing I’ve noticed through this revelation is the influx of quality female vocalists in the music game recently. From, up and comers such as IO Echo and their leader Ioanna Gika to Shauna McLarnon of Ummagma to more established acts Crystal Castles and Chvrches, fronted by Alice Glass and Lauren Mayberry respectfully, there is no shortage of talented front woman in popular music presently.
It is in fact very reminiscent of the early 90s when great female front women were all over the underground music scene including: Miki Berenyi (Lush), Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Sara MacLauchlan (solo), Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries) and Tanya Donelly (Belly) among many others. What’s interesting is, a lot of these artists, both past and present, attract either the dream pop or shoegaze label. Which brings me to one of the seminal masterpieces in the dream pop genre that has influenced so many: The Sundays: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, which was released in January 1990.
This album is so revered if one were to look it up on Amazon dot com they would find it rated 5 stars out of 92 ratings. 75 of which were actually five star, 14 four star, 2 three star and only one total 2 star review that I can only assume came from someone that is completely unhinged.
About vocalist Harriet Wheeler, the aforementioned Shauna McLarnon had this to say: “I am a huge fan of The Sundays. Harriet Wheeler is one of my favorite singers! Nobody has ever filled that void that was left when they stopped making music and I doubt anybody ever could. Just really epic music.” Having said that Wheeler’s lilting drifting lyrics are far from this album’s only highlight. Guitarist David Gavurin provides the perfect jangle pop accompaniment to her singing style invoking comparisons to Johnny Marr when he was with The Smiths as well as early R.E.M riffs courtesy of Peter Buck.
The entire album is phenomenal but two of my personal favorite singles include the back to back sixth and seventh tracks “You’re Not the Only One I Know” and “A Certain Someone.” Of course we can’t forget the iconic and definitive “Here’s Where the Story Ends.” This is a song so amazing it’s only peers in the realm of beautiful pop song authentic sweetnees include “God Only Knows by The Beach Boys, The Las “There She Goes” and The Lightning Seeds song “Pure.”
Alas, The Sundays subsequent two albums, Blind and Static & Silence had some definite highlights (including the songs “Love” and “Summertime”) but as a whole never quite recaptured the magic of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and the band disbanded in 1997. Then again, perfection is a difficult standard to live up to.
— Clint Corey, Arizona USA
All songs written by David Gavurin and Harriet Wheeler.
- “Skin & Bones” – 4:16
- “Here’s Where the Story Ends” – 3:54
- “Can’t Be Sure” – 3:22
- “I Won” – 4:23
- “Hideous Towns” – 3:46
- “You’re Not the Only One I Know” – 3:50
- “A Certain Someone” – 4:25
- “I Kicked a Boy” – 2:16
- “My Finest Hour” – 3:59
- “Joy” – 4:10
- Harriet Wheeler — Vocals
- David Gavurin — Guitar
- Paul Brindley — Bass
- Patrick Hannan — Drums
- Lindsay Jamieson — Tambourine