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4.7 out of 5 stars32
4.7 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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...
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2003
Much as I'd love to sound like Harriet wheeler, I hope I've never sung along to this out loud whilst wearing my walkman. I could never match a) her voice or b) her style.

I can't explain how good this album is but every time I listen to it (which is still alot) I remember and feel something so deep that I say to myself 'this is definately my favourite album of all time'. And I hope Harriet Wheeler reads this one day as I'd love her to know.
I don't know what it is about it, or rather there is just too much about it which makes it my number 1. - Harriet Wheeler's pure crystal clear voice, the depth of the lyrics, the tunes....I have to sing along.
It's miles better than anything else The Sundays have done - Blind was OK and Static and Silence was a bit depthless (but quite nice). I wish I'd made this album!
The only thing which comes close in my opinion is The Cocteau Twins stuff (Elizabeth Frazer has an amazing voice too).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2001
I love this band. Right from the first delectable wafting of Skin & Bones, Harriet Wheeler is a pleasure to listen to, as she takes us through tales of lost and longed-for love, recreating a mellower world perfectly. Can't Be Sure is perhaps the best, with some interesting musical effects, but I ahve especially soft spots for Here's Where the Story Ends (one of the msot famous tracks ever to start life as an album cut, alongside maybe Stairway To Heaven, Yesterday, Champagne Sueprnova and not much else), My Fienst Hour and A Certain Someone. The quality of the songs never falters, and the voice was jsut created to sing, to soothe, to shine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2012
This cd is one that I have been after for a while and as a long time fan of the Sundays I was not dissapointed with it. I have always had a soft spot for the song "Hears were the story ends" and was so pleased that other tunes were also as good on this cd! Well worth a listen if you like your music!
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on 27 February 2012
Far and away the Sundays' strongest and most consistent album, "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" is a virtually flawless piece of indie heaven.

Harriet Wheeler's petulant, little girl vocals perfectly suit the mood, the arrangements are thoughtful and melodic and the playing understated but superb. Anyone wishing to learn the art of tasteful rhythm guitar should have this in their collection.

Every song is beautifully crafted, and the album as a whole has a lovely flow and feel. There's something very "young" about the atmosphere this record evokes, and I find it irresistible. I've been listening to this album regularly since it was first released and it sounds just as fresh as ever.

Utterly wonderful. Sadly nothing else they did was quite as good.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2000
Rated as the 93rd best album of all time by NME magazine in 1993, the Sundays groundbreaking debut album could, quite easily, top any all-time best top 10. With Harriet Wheeler's wispy vocals (perhaps matched only by the voice of Frente's Angie Hart)entwined within a web of carefully constructed guitar chords and drum rhythms, the album borders, somewhat contradictorily, upon both the majestic and the fragile. Highlights include I Kicked a Boy, Here's Where The Story Ends, Can't Be Sure and, perhaps The Sundays most impressive song to date, the appropriately named 'Finest Hour'. This bitter-sweet and often enchanting album is a must for any true music fan's cd collection.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2000
Utterly one of the greatest recording ever made. Harriet Wheeler's voice is sublime and the songs are the perfect tools to display it. One of the very few perfect albums where every single song fits in together and nothing at all seems out of place. As fresh and beautiful as it was when it was released 11 years ago in 1989 (that makes me feel old). Pure and simple one of the most beautiful recordings in existence.
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on 29 September 2012
'Finest Hour' is one of my all time favourite songs and,as I'm updating my music collection to cd,I'm listening to it along with many others from years ago. To anyone who hasn't heard this album (or hasn't heard of The Sundays)I urge you to listen to it, especially if you enjoy female vocalists who have something truly different to offer. Harriet Wheeler's vocals are quite unique and often heartbreaking,and it's hard to understand why they didn't achieve greater success.The cover version of 'Here's Where The Story Ends' is nowhere near as good as the original!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
It must be 20 years since I last listened to this and yet still sounds great. Beautiful album. Ethereal and fragile female vocal yet down to earth lyrics.
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on 14 June 2012
This very original sounding work is certainly competent, but lacks an edge of brilliance that could set it apart. Easy going and easy listening, quite thoughtful, but no real emotional depth. Pretty good,full of very English vocal charm, and good musical arrangements. Not an all time great perhaps, but nevertheless it is certainly worth a speculative purchase. Quite a nice album overall, but personally I think the later Static And Silence is a superior work.
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