Was there ever a more tantalizing band than The Sundays? Usually a band has at least one good song in them, and ultimately what separates the good bands from the great ones – and indeed the crap ones that make up 99% of the entire music population – comes down to the number of good songs they write (and the frequency with which they can release them). The Sundays have written three terrific songs: ‘Here’s Where the Story Ends‘, ‘Goodbye‘ and ‘Summertime‘. These are among the loveliest, most lilting songs English music has produced in the last twenty years. Harriet Wheeler’s voice is immediately iconic, the hooks infectious, the swooning guitar transporting you to some imaginary countryside from your childhood. What’s more, these are the types of songs that you just know there are more of: they’re just so *loveable* that you can’t help but think – know – the band who wrote them must surely have the magic to crank out more. The clincher is the fact that the above three songs are all each on different albums. Yes! This isn’t just the debut album the members had been writing and dreaming about since they were fourteen year-old acne victims that has all the good songs. The output must be consistent, it’s not a one-off!
The illusion shatters once you listen to the three albums in their entirety. What’s really striking is not that the other songs are particularly terrible, but that they’re incredibly nondescript. Some of the good elements are there, but nothing ever comes together to make any of the other songs memorable in the least. They are like husks, the very definition of filler, but because they contain the slightest traces of The Good Songs, they keep you in hope. You listen patiently, hoping and hoping that the next track is the one that will meet your expectations. A riff here, a Wheeler wail there, and you are reminded of what’s possible. So you keep listening.
But the payoff never comes. The Three Good Songs are all there is. The headrush of ‘Goodbye’, the nostalgic longing in ‘Summertime’, the assured self-reflection of ‘Here’s Where…’ are not replicated in the rest of The Sundays’ oeuvre. If they had put these songs on one album it might have been a classic. Instead, they personify why the age of MP3s is a good thing: just buy the tracks you want, not the whole albums.