The Sundays Reading, Writing And Arithmetic
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Nearly 26 years ago, with Madchester at the height of its popular appeal, a band about as far removed from The Happy Mondays as it was possible to be briefly rivalled Bez, Shaun and friends as the new darlings of the independent music scene. With the release of their debut album Reading, Writing And Arithmetic, The Sundays received a flurry of euphoric reviews comparing the London quartet to The Smiths, and it's fair to say that David Gavurin builds his songs around the same peculiarly British melancholy yet achingly pretty guitar jangle immortalised by Johnny Marr. But the most distinctive ingredient about the Sundays was always Harriet Wheeler's voice, which positions the group as a kind of missing link between the ethereal soundscapes of the Cocteau Twins and the more chart-friendly indie-pop of The Cranberries. Like Liz Fraser and Dolores O'Riordan, Wheeler's vocals transfer effortlessly from a fragile whisper to a passionate shriek, taking often simple melodies and leading them on a merry dance across her whole impressive range. The two best known tracks on Reading, Writing And Arithmetic are the singles Can't Be Sure and Here's Where The Story Ends, and two decades later these remain the best examples of The Sundays' appeal with their instant, breezy hooks and delicate, shuffling rhythms. The rest of the album is a little less immediate, but gradually tracks like Hideous Towns and I Kicked A Boy work their way insidiously inside your head, with Wheeler's angelic, almost hypnotic voice leading the charm offensive. The Sundays never again recaptured the heights of their debut record, fading slowly into obscurity as the world they inhabited gave way to the brash, confident swagger of Britpop. While Reading, Writing And Arithmetic is perhaps a little too fey and lightweight to warrant true classic status, it is nevertheless a sweet, beguiling piece of work that is utterly of its time, yet still fresh and enjoyable today.