1990, Music

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990) by The Sundays

Why do I know The Sundays’ biggest hit? I was 8 when it came out and absolutely not listening to contemporary radio. My only guess is that the video got played a lot on Canada’s music video channel when I was older. Because I’ve definitely heard this song, and I can’t come up with any other reason.

This is some very pleasant, catchy jangle pop. I’m tempted to make some kind of claim bout it being a particularly definitive example of late ’80s/early ’90s jangle pop, just because it is so damn jangly. It feels like an extremely typical example. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, right?
I feel like I’m a broken record but the thing about bands which do one thing and do it well is whether or not a record of theirs is good depends upon the strength of the songs. But what it also depends upon is whether or not the listener likes that genre. (Whether that is fair or not.)

Gavurin and Wheeler write reasonably catchy songs and I find Wheeler’s lyrics pretty good when I’m paying attention. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this set of songs. (“You’re Not The Only One” may sound a bit too much like their big hit, but whatever.)

But my issue is that, at bottom, I am not a very big jangle pop fan (with the massive exception of REM, who I encountered when I was young). And I can’t say I particularly like this band’s version of the style. That’s not to say it’s bad or anything, but it’s just not my thing. Wheeler has a good voice for the style, occasionally going into interesting places, and Gavurin does occasionally suggest he could be an interesting guitarist if the genre was about that kind of thing, but the music is just too damn pleasant for me. That’s the point, and I know that, but it’s just not for me. I need more than just a few moments of passion or quirk to find jangle pop interesting.
I also need the record to sound dynamic. Take “I Won” for example. The listener needs to feel that break a lot more. I bet the audience does in concert. But the bass isn’t deep enough and Wheeler’s voice might not be mixed right even though it’s clearly mixed up front. (I just don’t quite know why her entry into the break has basically no power.) In fact, the more I think about it the more I’m pretty sure it’s production, not so much the band, which is keeping me from liking this as much as other people. The record is too flat.

But the songs are decent.


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