The Sundays
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic


4.5
superb

Review

by instantradical USER (64 Reviews)
June 15th, 2014 | 24 replies


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A timeless classic of jangly indie rock.

I fell in love with music when I was sixteen years old, and my interest was born out of the electric guitar and all of its shimmering, crunchy possibilities. The style of playing found in obscure alternative rock bands immediately drew me toward the instrument, and not surprisingly my tastes have inclined toward bands where the primary focus is on the instrumentation, rather than the singing.

Most of my beloved bands are fronted by singers whose voice is another melody mixed in with the guitars. The Sundays are a conspicuous exception to that rule. The lovely Harriet Wheeler is unmistakably the center of the band, but she's more than a pretty face; almost twenty-five years after the release of Reading, Writing, And Arithmetic, her singing remains nearly unrivaled amongst indie rock bands.

It's not just her ability as a singer, or even her voice, itself. Her lyrics carefully-composed and often clever, taking unexpected turns, and these elements all converge to achieve a wistful, romantic quality rarely found in indie rock, where ironic detachment and sourness are more common. Though The Sundays were sometimes dismissed for being derivative of artists like The Smiths or The Cocteau Twins, the aspiring indie band girl vocalist would end up sounding much fresher by taking some influence from Wheeler's style rather than the likes of Kim Deal or Kim Gordon.

But what ultimately makes The Sundays are successful band, rather than just Harriet Wheeler And Her Backing Group, is what the rest of the band contributes. David Gavarin's guitar playing is the other highlight of the album. Gavarin is an underrated guitarist who crafted nearly as many memorable hooks as frequent subject of comparison Johnny Marr, and beyond his keen ear for composition, his guitar playing perfectly balances with Harriet's singing. The Sundays display a finely-tuned sense for melodies and countermelodies, never tipping the balance too far in one direction or the other. And Gavarin's taste for suspended chords and ethereal melodies on songs like "Joy" set The Sundays apart from groups like the derivative Cranberries.

“Here's Where The Story Ends” is a fine song, to be certain, but the album is filled with tracks that match or exceed its quality. “Hideous Towns” and “You're Not The Only One I Know” are particular standouts, and “Can't Be Sure” builds up in a satisfying way. Though Wheeler and Gavarin tended to get most of the attention, the rhythm section deserves compliments as well. Paul Brindley's bass playing, in particular, makes a subtle but enjoyable contribution to each of the tracks. Although it's tempting to remember The Sundays just for Harriet's vocals, the satisfying manner in which all the pieces come together give the record an enduring charm that sounds as fresh today as it did twenty-five years ago.

The Sundays' influence is found in, of all places, Japanese indie rock, where groups like The Pillows, Advantage Lucy, and Soutaisei Riron owe a lot of their guitar stylings and melodic sensibility to the band. Curiously, Mike Kinsella, in speaking about American Football, cited the band as an influence, in spirit if not exactly in style. In the same way Kinsella's album conjures impressions of the autumnal, suburban American midwest, The Sundays channel the English countryside with its stony, bucolic cottages and anxiously uncertain college days in equal measure. Its distance from the cynicism and detachment of modern independent music make Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic an album that's immediately charming in its honesty and appreciation of simple beauty.



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user ratings (88)
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Abaddon2005 (2)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
dimsim3478
June 15th 2014


8465 Comments


I love this band so much and I love you for reviewing it and

YOU KNOWWWWWWWWW I've been wonderinggggggggg

Digging: The Cro-Magnons - PUNCH

HolidayKirk
June 15th 2014


1722 Comments


Holy shit the only other review for this was a two? Well thanks for remedying that and a stellar review.

instantradical
June 20th 2014


313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah that other review sucked, the guy was out of his mind. This album's great and the other two are really good, also.

bach
February 6th 2016


16276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

best album ever prob

p4p
April 25th 2016


1959 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

one of the best pop albums fo sho

Ryus
May 8th 2016


17822 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you're not the only one i know is the perfect pop song

p4p
August 15th 2016


1959 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

man this record is so uplifting its like looking at a clear sky after a heavy rain

zakalwe
August 15th 2016


28787 Comments


Here's Where the Story Ends is the '90s.

kascetcadettt
September 29th 2016


1602 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yep this rules

danielcardoso
November 7th 2016


11770 Comments


Incredible.

protokute
April 17th 2018


721 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wow

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
April 19th 2018


2695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

man when i put this on the world just recedes until i'm somewhere better; one of *those* albums

Digging: Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself

DoofDoof
November 16th 2018


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Here’s Where the Story Ends is my least favourite chorus of all time, pleased to now know who was responsible for it.



The word ‘souvenir’ is dead to me for all times 🤢

DoofDoof
November 16th 2018


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I’d actually choose Morrissey over these vocals.



I said it.



{shiver}

Ryus
November 16th 2018


17822 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

get outta here doof

SandwichBubble
November 16th 2018


10290 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Doof is actually right for once today

DoofDoof
November 16th 2018


5844 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

‘for once’



Just try and make an argument ‘Knights of Malta’ isn’t the worst album opener of the year, I dare you



You gotta give me two

SandwichBubble
November 16th 2018


10290 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I haven't actually listened to that one yet, but yr probably right. Point to Doof

Hellscythe
January 8th 2019


4214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the fuck's with these low-ass ratings

Digging: Angel Olsen - All Mirrors

Ryus
January 8th 2019


17822 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

probably low intellect



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