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Peachy keen melodic awesomeness, to repeat ad infinitum... and then repeat....
on 8 April 2014
A stand out album for its addictive minimalist wizardry and quirky memorable lyrical meanderings which sometimes make sense (to me), some times wryly pontificate and more often than not politely muse with all the greyness of a domestic TV soap in not really saying that much - but in a good way! Harriet's fleeting personal reflections are more than an ode to the every day common place-ness of misunderstood behaviours in (her) close relationships, they are sometimes beguiling youthful intolerances to injustice. However, above all else it is the attractiveness of the music, that is so powerful and arresting in its stripped down virtuoso complexity, that has an an uncanny ability to envelope Harriet's vocals in almost perfect synchrony which never ceases to capture my imagination to this day.
"Whether the world will see I'm a better man than others by far" exclaims Harriet during the opening track of 'Skin And Bones' with its strange echoey and droll metronomic tones that set the scene for a master piece of simplistic song construction. The notes dart and weave, then by turns accelerate and decelerate into beautiful syncopated earwormery. "Stellar talents", as one internet critic once commented, are easily the words to sum up Harriet Wheeler and David Gavarin's take on atmospheric pop folk, with their unique blend of catchy melodicism inspired from a palette of sparse guitar tones and effects devoid of any synthesisers or orchestral overtures on this their debut album.
Then.. complete change of mood - and the radio friendly hit single of 'Here's Where The Story Ends' sings out with its high tempo acoustic soft plectrum style (so beloved of Marr) strumming a wistful forlornness behind the lyric sentiment. A guitar overdubs to mimic a mandolin which ingrains the tunefulness even further..
Next up is 'Can't be Sure' which returns to its Indie regular guitar chiming roots that hang on the sentiment of England's terrible weather in suspended three notes sequences like the slowly repetitive dripping of a rain until the drums signal the song's resolution before opening up into a soaring finale - a sunshine break in the clouds... yeahhh yeah yeah "oh it's my life.."
'I Won', a hidden gem in jaunty rhythmic guitar style, though with far self revelatory dark insightful tones than 'Here's Where The Story Ends': "Ooh, let me take a candle to a cellar tonight. And I'd like to take some matches and set it alight" is menacingly juxtaposed with "Well you keep following the funeral pyre" and " I won the war in the sitting room, I won the war but it cost me, I won the war and I feel proud, But God only knows why it's hard to get to sleep in my house". This is followed by the best wet-your-pants inferno of teasing guitar drenched atmospheric debauchery you'll find this side of the Doors in its lush accompaniment to Harriet's "supercilious smile".
'Hideous Towns' is a pean to the dullness of small towns with a lightening fast chorus reminiscent of an Eighties band called The Wedding Present. Then 'You're Not The Only One' is another gem wrapped up in Morriseyesque self doubt. A rather catchy opening base line intro leads to the immortal line "Where's the harm in voicing your doubt, You'll find me in the lavatory!" A sweet middle eight prefigures the nonchalant refrain of the song title "You're not the only one that I know, But I'm too proud to talk to you any day" which reaffirms the impression that The Sundays exceed in revelling in every-day intimacies spun along as always to catchy melodies.
'A Certain Someone' returns to edgier treatment with Harriet's 'bottle of old cologne' being tossed on the open stormy sea of elongated repetitive guitar notes climaxing with the stabbing "Oh, you're too twisted [for help]". The song ascends further still in intensity with an exquisitely addictive set of strident leaps that ring out after "Oh, be careful, living in a block of flats, And I never take the lift to the top". Is this a metaphor for the idealistic fragility of love or a common-place observation on modern architecture!!!? Either way it is a beautifully inspired piece of haunting music and my favourite dramatic passage on the album.
'I Kicked A Boy' is a more respiteful and sweeter track that lulls you into a false sense' of tweeness with its rather pedestrian (even for the Sundays) choice of rock chords until you realise it precursors the next gem on the album, 'The Finest Hour', this is one of the album's most anthemic tracks to the drollest lyrics with a middle eight to grace any cassette player: "And the finest hour that I've ever known, Was finding a pound on the Underground!", "And I'll send you letters and come to your house for tea, we are who we are, what do the others know, but poetry is not for me, so show me the way to go home". The sweeping rhythmic guitar line borders on the sublime, while in the coda Harriet's voice rises angelically a la Liz Frazer in pure child-like gibberish: "You're, you're, you're too young" - reminiscent of the Cocteau's 'Treasure' - the guitar proceeds gently into fade out.
RRR closes in the same way it begins, repeating the first track's regular angularity wth the song 'Joy' culminating in a trademark swell of escalated discordance. For a band with a drab name and a prepubescent lead delivery they sure pack a punch.. An understated classic and much vaunted blast from the past. Buy with the sequel album Blind and be prepared to be delivered...