The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic Turns 30

Long before the emergence of female-fronted bands whose music may be classified as Indie/Jangle Pop the likes of The Cranberries (“Linger”), The Cardigans (“Rise & Shine”), and Camera Obscura (“Eighties Fan”), there was already the far softer and more fragile sound of The Sundays.

Formed in 1988, in London, England, by the couple Harriet Wheeler (vocals) and David Gavurin (guitar) with Paul Brindley (bass) and Patrick Hannan (drums), The Sundays rose to Indie prominence by the start of the then new decade via their still most popular song, “Here’s Where the Story Ends.”

During their prime, The Sundays were able to release three full-length albums—1990’s Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, 1992’s Blind, and 1997’s Static & Silence. And now, in celebration of the 30 years’ mark of the first of this trilogy, dust it off and soundtrack your schmaltzy Sundays with it.

Released on January 15, 1990, via Rough Trade Records, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic opened with the slightly syncopated and seemingly atonal allure of “Skin & Bones,” which had faint Gothic echoes of Cocteau Twins (“Carolyn’s Fingers”). This was immediately followed by the beloved, lovely “Here’s Where the Story Ends,” which has become the English band’s trademark song—heartrending, tragic, melting, nostalgic. Then, “Can’t Be Sure” slowly rose to dawning heights, with its jangly guitars and tribal drumbeats.

The Sundays then shifted the gear a bit higher, as they launched into an Indie rockin’ stomper—“I Won,” which emanated recognizable footprints of Ned Atomic Dustbin’s “Suave and Suffocated.” This upbeat predisposition continued in the succession of the driving “Hideous Towns” and swinging “You’re Not the Only One I Know,” both of which may be regarded as album highlights—engaging, catchy, lively…Indie Pop templates; these fit well onto a playlist that includes “Burst” by Shelleyan Orphan, “Tomorrow” by The Cranberries, “Mesmer” by Babacar, and “Waiting for the Winter” by The Popguns.

“A Certain Someone” was another edgy track that was more driven and sharper than the rest of the set, foreshadowing what was to come in the few years that followed during the advent of the Alternative Rock and Britpop era. The Sundays then turned mellow and sweet again with “I Kicked a Boy” and “My Finest Hour,” but which still carried the same Jangle Pop sensibilities.

Finally, Wheeler, Gavurin, Brindley, and Hannan ended their debut story jubilantly with the undulating rhythm and senses-overriding sonic waves of the aptly titled “Joy”—pure and simple, like shooting rubberbands at the stars or shooting stars around one’s heart.

According to an interview about the band on BBC Radio 6 Music in 2014, The Sundays were writing music again; however, to this day, something concrete is yet to come off it. So, it is really a shame that a band that served as a template for many an Indie Pop bands that surfaced after them might not be releasing anything new anymore. Nonetheless, feel comforted for the meantime by the breezy, mystical sound of The Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and hope for the best that here their story does not end.

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