Static & Silence is the third and final album by The Sundays and was released in 1997. I'd been led to believe that The Sundays were like a melding of The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins but I think this theory might be preposterously over generous having now listened to some of their albums. If anything, The Sundays are like a much more lightweight British version of 10,000 Maniacs without the social commentary, bite and subtext. Their trump card is/was their lead singer Harriet Wheeler's soaring folksy and distinctive voice and it's certainly charming at times but while the music itself is pleasant in a jingle jangle Britpop type of way it's ultimately never too much more than that. Static and Silence is all very nice and sometimes wonderful when it reaches its melodic shimmering peaks but The Sundays are one of those groups who perhaps might have experimented and tried something new now and again as many of their songs seemed to morph into one another here for me and sound very samey at times. Somehow, much on the album sometimes feels too one-note and constricted and middle of the road soundtrack fodder far more than it should do. Summertime begins the album and is the best known of any Sundays song (even those who have never heard of The Sundays would probably feel like they had heard this somewhere before if it was played for them). The song reached number fifteen in the British charts as a single and has very distinctive and enjoyable distorted jingle jangle guitars (the intro is superb) that make a perfect backdrop for Harriet Wheeler's irresistible vocals. Her voice is wonderfully languid and then soars for the chorus. This song (which is poppier than a can of Fanta that has been in the fridge for two days and shaken to within an inch of its life) has a fantastic summery atmosphere and is really good. The only problem is that you soon realise that none of the other songs here are as immediate or supply the same sugar rush. Summertime heightens one's expectations for Static and Silence and the rest of the album, try as it might, can never quite manage to crystalise the sound of The Sundays in such perfect fashion and so pales slightly in comparison.
This is apparent with the second song - Homeward. The slower and more languid song is ok with strumming guitars and a nice vocal but after a while it begins to feel dreary and and samey and has you half reaching for the skip button. I stuck it out to the end but this song never really did it for me or remained lodged in my memory very well. Much better is Folk Song, which, as the title suggests, feels like a homage to everyone from Nick Drake to Joni Mitchell. The guitars are very pretty and straight out of a Nick Drake album while Harriet Wheeler's vocal displays much more range than the previous song and uses falsetto much more. There are some nice strings too as a backdrop and the overall effect is a much richer, affecting and more interesting song than Homeward. One always feels that this could have been a great record with just two or three more songs in the vein of Summertime or Homeward rather than some of the more prosaic and bland tunes that feature as the album progreses. She is a rather dull middle of the road song that begins like a ballad with strumming acoustic guitars but then goes more generically poppy with more of a Britpop feel and electronic guitar riffs. It's perfectly nice and pleasant but just a bit dull in the end and you wait in vain for some great chorus for Harriet Wheeler sink her teeth into and sadly it never ever arrives. When I'm Thinking About You is much in the same vein. It has a gentler atmosphere and more languid aura than the previous song but never really goes anywhere terribly interesting either. Harriet Wheeler's vocals are always nice but you do wish sometimes that there was more for her to do and some experimentation. The biggest criticism of The Sundays really I think is that all their albums more or less sound the same and there was never any huge sense of progression. Static and Silence is generally regarded to be darker than their first two records but it's not exactly Dog Man Star when it comes to gloom or taking a risk.
I Can't Wait is a mid-tempo song that also feels rather dull in the end and as if it was designed on a conveyer belt in some Britpop factory to be on the soundtrack to some sappy American teen drama. There is nice plaintive quality to Harriet Wheeler's voice and I like the folksy inflections she has too here (very charming) but I did feel as if I'd already heard this about three times already on Static and Silence. Another Flavour is much better and the shackles are finally removed from Harriet Wheeler again so that she can deliver a huge soaring vocal and really display her range. This song is much busier, noisier and more modern sounding than the three or four that have gone before and has some nice guitar riffery. One could imagine this as a single playing on the radio. Leave This City is also agreeable and another welcome above average song for the album. A slow ballad that begins with Harriet Wheeler sounding very Cocteau Twins as if she's in a muffled choir. It might have been nice to have the whole song like this (and different at least) and although the vocal eventually becomes more conventional (with the singer sounding somewhat like Natalie Merchant) it's a perfectly decent song and better than most of the other slow ones here. Your Eyes is much more folksy and I love the way Harriet Wheeler's vocals are overlapping so she becomes her own backing group. Her vocals become very floaty and enjoyable and the only real downside to this song are the flutes that kick in somewhere along the line and threaten to make everything very twee and cliched.
Cry is easily the second best song on the album after Summertime and one that always feels recognisable and immediate despite being a ballad. The key is there are strings and a lush backdrop for Harriet Wheeler to work with and she spins a wonderful swooping vocal with a great chorus. The lyrics are the usual vague airy fairy Sundays nothingness ("I'm standing on a platform, Now I'm staring from a train, And all the trees roll back beside...") but the song itself is really good. Nice mandolins by the way. This song was released as the second single from the album but failed to replicate the success of Summertime and stalled at number forty three in the British singles chart. Finally, there is Monochrome, a four minute slower song that tries to be a gently building epic but never really lodges in the memory - even after you've just listened to it. Like many songs here it flirts with being something so much more but then just falls into the vast middle ground between great songs and forgetful songs. Merely a nice ok song that you forget afterwards. Static & Silence is a pleasant album with a nice summery atmosphere on the poppy songs and an autumnal aura on the slow ones and if the thought of folk Britpop with a lead singer who sounds like a British Natalie Merchant appeals then you should enjoy this to a certain degree but I felt that the songwriting and music never quite did full justice to Harriet Wheeler's talented vocals and there were too many songs that just ending up sounding the same. This is a nice record with two or three memorable high points but ultimately it never produced enough consistently great songs for me to make it stand taller and be deserving of an extra star.
First I should declare i'm a big sundays fan. I would also say this is The Sundays best album to date. Harriet Wheeler's voice is tinged with sadness, making it much more heartfelt and emotional than the previous two albums. There some extraordinary songs, like 'Homeward' and 'When I'm Thinking About You' and 'Monochrome' the song from which the album takes its name, is an insightful recounting of the moonwalk. The arrangements are beautiful, full of great hooks and guitar lines, but never quite getting "nice to the point of nasty". The songs are almost all growers. One or two of them might grab you first time, but the rest will just keep getting better and better. You notice fresh nuances of music and lyrics on every listen. I'd certainly recommend you buy this album and even get some other sundays stuff as they are hugely underrated.
The Sundays then - even though I'm a recent convert to their small following of fans there isn't that much I've learnt about the people behind the music, on the album I'm writing an opinion on there is a web-address (www.parlaphone.co.uk/sundays) for a site with all information about the Sundays but whenever I try to visit all I get is a 404 message so if it seems that I don't know who I'm talking about please remember we're working with limited information here people! Anyway what was it I was talking about again? oh yeah! It was the album static and silence by the sundays!! So its definitely a good album, but a little background then into why I decided to give this lot one of the cherished spots in my Christmas Wish-list last year, well as some of you may know one of my top albums is Buffy The Vampire Slayer the Theme Tune and my own personal highlight from that album is the haunting track 'Wild Horses' now then not wanting to go out and buy a Sundays album on the strength of one track (they're £16.99 each at my local Virgin!) I turned to the surfers friend - Napster, and after downloading quite a few tracks I realised I liked them, in fact I liked them a lot! But by the time I'd got round to deciding that I was purchasing an album of theirs it was nearly Christmas and everybody was asking that faithful question 'What do you want this year?' so anyway at least that was 17 pounds less next time I visited Virgin. Christmas Day came and there I was carrying the album 'static and silence' in my hands, after convincing mum that I'd only set up her new computer for her if she let me play this album whilst I worked on her machine I was away into another world listening to the wonderously harmonic voice of Harriet Wheeler on the track 'summertime' (which a lot of you may recognize - I do but can't think where from!) if you're wanting to know what type of music The Sundays pla
y well its a cross between pop, blues and ballad - sorry to be a bit vague but hey its my opinion and I'll be vague if I want to! ( ;-) ), however back to the album itself - its pretty much a similar affair all the way through the album and part of me felt a little bit disappointed but I trundled on and was soon back into the flow - it was the track 'folk song' that did it for me - this is apparently from what fellow fans of the band have told me 'Classic' Sundays Stuff and from what music I've heard this statement is definitely true 'folk song' is a ballad type of tune with a hint of pop music thrown in for good measure (very much like Wild Horses) and it works in fact it works very well!, with the slow-to-middling beat from the actual music of the track this makes for a very strong song indeed. So we carried on through the album and over the past fortnight it's been played time and again and now I have to say - it's growing on me, there are a couple of weak tracks here (namely I can't wait and cry) but apart from this, what we have here is a very strong offering from The Sundays that has got me hooked to their kind of music with at least 3 or 4 more tracks like Wild Horses and Folk Song, they keep the album going with 11 songs that are very similar but at the same time very different, its hard to explain why it makes me feel this way but it just seems that be it a single/album that I've bought or a song I've downloaded I know exactly what I can expect, basically a strong piece of music made even better by Harriets vocals. So in summary we have a very good album here that if you just happen to have £16.99 just lying around the house you may want to go out and buy, who knows you may enjoy it! track listings 1. Summertime 2. Homeward 3. Folk Song 4. She 5. When I'm thinking about you 6. I can't wait 7. Another Flavour 8. Leave this city 9. Y
our Eyes 10. Cry 11. Monochrome The Sundays are.... Vocals - Harriet Wheeler Guitars - David Gavurin Bass - Paul Brindley Drums - Patrick Hannan
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 Folk Song
5 When I'm Thinking About You
6 I Can't Wait
7 Another Flavour
8 Leave This City
9 Your Eyes