Some albums require several listens for me to fully immerse myself in their sound and learn the songs, while others are so familiar that I could probably write the blog without a single listen, even if I wouldn’t take that shortcut. Today’s album is one I have listened to many, many times, as we return to The Sundays for their third, and sadly, final album, “Static and Silence”. In summary, it is another record I truly love, just as I enjoyed “Blind”. The sound of this album is a bit more experimental this time, with a greater incorporation of strings and horns, but it is once again twelve great songs built around the creative guitar of David Gavurin and his wife Harriet Wheeler and her beautiful vocals.
To fully enjoy today’s ride with “Static and Silence”, I escaped to the rural pines, ridges and ultimately plains, southeast of my hometown in Colorado. All three areas I call home now are essentially on the border of empty space and congested urban action, and I love that a simple and single turn can leave me virtually alone among the empty spaces still left to be savored in 2022.
There are two categories of songs on this album… ones that I like, and ones that I love. I enjoy the entire record, but will devote my attention to the songs that have stuck with me vividly since this album was released. The record opens with their second commercially single, “Summertime”. Joyous and bouncy, this song is a perfect mood-setter for the coming summer season as the sun shines bright in the spring sky.
The second song, “Homeward”, is a melancholy song of loss, and the acoustic guitars of Gavurin are so pure and pristine. Wheeler is also amazing on this song; it truly is a gorgeous and wonderfully simple song.
Perhaps no other song matched my location for this album better than “Folk Song”, celebrating the beauty and isolation of nature. Life moves way too fast and there is never enough time to enjoy these simple pleasures of the planet we call home, but this song is an excellent reminder that in many cases, less is more.
Probably my favorite aspect of Gavurin’s guitar is when he builds a song around one or two chords that are nearly identical except for one or two strings and notes. That approach helped to shape “God Made Me” on “Blind”, and my two favorite songs on this album also are similar in structure. The fifth song of the album is “When I’m Thinking About You”. The guitar work is stunning, the strings are so perfectly inserted, Harriet Wheeler once again delivers a truly angelic performance in this tune about missing the one you love, and if that isn’t enough, there is a piano interlude that is just remarkably sweet and powerful within this sweet song.
Using a similar approach with an electric guitar opening riff that melts into an acoustic and string-based masterpiece, “Cry” is the other song from this record that is on another level. It is another gutting song of loss, but the mood and story endorse the emotion of loss while offering hope and beauty in the words and lyrics. The electric guitar re-emerges for a jolting and brief chord-based moment, and this song builds to such a wonderfully dramatic climax.
Fittingly so, the last song I will single out is effectively the title track, even if it technically is not. “Monochrome”, as well as the term “Static and Silence”, which is in the song, are all in reference to the wonder and amazement felt by Wheeler and millions of others as they watched the first moon landing in 1969 as a young girl. The pure innocence and unscarred beauty of the lunar surface became a place everyone felt a part of, and even to this day, I also remain a passionate follower of space exploration and the hope that we have more of this magic to anticipate above the sometimes painful and complicated reality we endure on Earth. The contrasting beauty of the moon is even captured in image, featured in prominent isolation with a deep blue background on the album’s cover.
“Monochrome” is the perfect ending to a nearly-perfect album, with its gentle and wondrous tone, and even more suitable for closing out their brief but nearly-perfect career. Despite their remarkable talents, they retired to a life of apparent domestic bliss, raising their family in anonymity and peace in England. They have resisted all offers and opportunities to reform and perform or record, at least for public consumption, so they remain somewhat of a lost treasure for myself and others who so enjoyed their run of magical music in the 1990s.