Graded on a Curve: Another Sunny Day, London Weekend

Miserablism may be an “ism” of my own devising but it’s a very real thing, and its sufferers—if they’re of the cynical bent, and most are—tend towards the use of industrial strength sarcasm. Take musical miserablist Harvey Williams’ name for his late ‘80s/early ‘90s solo project, Another Sunny Day. It’s every bit as sarcastic as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and were he a believer in truth in advertising he might have gone with “Your Fucking Sunny Day,” which just happens to the title of a Lambchop song.

Another Sunny Day–who only released one LP, the 1992 compilation London Weekend—were on the roster of the British indie pop pioneers at Sarah Records, which basically put the band amongst the jingly-jangly guitar-friendly power pop set celebrated in the New Musical Express’ highly influential 1986 C86 cassette compilation (although Williams was too late on the scene to be included). London Weekend is made up of five of the six ASD singles released by Sarah Records, minus the “Genetic Engineering/Kilburn Towers” single on which Williams covered songs by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and the Bee Gees, respectively.

Another Sunny Day announced itself to the world with the 1988 six-inch flexi-disc “Anorak City,” a very, very low-fi guitar blur of a song on which Williams sings, “Take a trip to Anorak Station/There’s a craze that’s sweeping the nation/So don’t let your credibility slip” and (wonderfully) “Will you be anorak, baby?” I don’t know if Anorak City is London, but I assume the craze he’s talking about is anoraks, which will most likely never take hold in the U.S.A. because most of us wouldn’t know an anorak from a kayak.

Suffice it to say “Anorak City” is the only non-romantic bummer on the compilation, but he more than makes up for it on the lush, lovely, and most definitely not lo-fi follow-up “I’m in Love with a Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist.” Here Williams lets his mope flag fly, officially vying with Morrissey in The Most Miserable Man in Great Britain Sweepstakes. “I could speak to you, you could speak to me,” he sings, “Oh but it will never happen, what will be will be/So I’ll just lie and dream of the chances I’ve missed.” As the remaining songs on London Weekend demonstrate, missed chances are Harvey’s forte. The guy’s a veritable romantic strike-out king.

On the up-tempo, guitar-jangle heavy “Things Will Be Nice” things won’t—opening a song with the line “Do you know what you’ve done, girl?” is never a good omen, and “I thought it could be perfect” are well-known final last words. “The Centre of My Little World” is all strummed guitars and tambourine, and while it promises to have a happy ending you should know better, really—come song’s end the centre of Williams’ little world has taken off with another guy. No self-respecting miserablist would dream of writing a song where love wins out in the end—heartbreak is the métier of the constitutionally star-crossed, and happy-ever-afters are a betrayal of their craft.

“What’s Happened to You, My Dearest Friend?” is a Smiths-influenced return to lo-fi, and while its lyrics aren’t cheer-you-ups, its brisk and ironically chipper beat is happy-making, as is the great instrumental take-out. The beat-heavy “Can’t You Tell It’s True?” is also posed in the form of a question (bet Harv loves Jeopardy!) and is yet another example of romantic disaster—the line “Now I wish I was dead” tells you everything you need to know about the song. “Impossible” is a driving number, with guitars like racing greyhounds, and again on the lo-fi side, with Williams—or so I’m assuming, since no one else is credited on the LP—doing a great job of doubling himself on vocals.

“You Should All be Murdered” is the best song on the compilation—unfortunately (or no, you may not give a shit it’s so good) it’s as blatant a Smiths rip as you’ll ever hear. The guitar, Williams’ vocals, the song’s very sentiment—I’m betting Morrissey kicked himself for not having dreamed up a song title that wonderfully malicious. The long guitar interlude—and the soaring strings that follow—are ecstasy-making, and the opening lines (“One day, when the world is set to rights/I’m going to murder all the people I don’t like”) are bleeding spiteful genius. And the list of persons on Harvey’s murder list is a long one. You may walk away thinking “What a terrible, terrible person,” but you have to admire his ambition.

“Horseriding” again tends towards the lo-fi, and while the song doesn’t proceed at a Kentucky Derby-winning gallop—and has nothing to do with riding horses, for that matter—it’s not a last place finisher either. Poor lovelorn Harvey sings, “Downstairs I feel so different/Though everything’s the same/And if I don’t see you soon/I’m going to kill myself.” Which fortunately he doesn’t, perhaps because he sees a glimmer of light (“Cause today I felt so good/Because I didn’t think of you for almost an hour”) at the end of the long, bleak tunnel of thwarted love.

On the slow by Another Sunny Day standards “Green,” Williams is basically telling a boy his girl is too good for him but not too good for old Harv (“I could love her better”). Too bad he blew his chances with her: “ So many things I wish I’d done/I left so many things, I’m not the only one/But I still don’t get it, right to this day/Why couldn’t I say it/I just couldn’t say it.” You choke you lose, love is that simple a matter, which is why I tell every single woman I meet I love her—it spares me the agony that comes along with not having said so when I had the chance.

On the lugubrious “Rio” Williams certainly sounds down in the mouth. I have no idea why he swiped the title from Duran Duran—maybe his girl is named Rio just like Duran Duran’s girl is, although he makes no mention of his girl being able to dance across the Rio Grande. And I shouldn’t be calling her his girl, period. He would love for her to be his girl, mind you, but not only is she not his girl, she could soon be another guy’s girl, to which our romantic sad sack can say only, and rather pathetically at that, “Where does this leave me?” In bed for a month perhaps, sobbing? Going on a mad bender followed by a month in bed, sobbing? Spending hours boring mum stiff with your sad luck story? The point is the guy has options.

“The Very Beginning” is slow, lovely, dark, and almost regal in its bearing, and Williams sings like a ravaged angel until the ravishing instrumental passage. A masterful piece of work, this one, and it’s followed by the slightly up-tempo ballad “I Don’t Suppose I’ll Get a Second Chance.” Williams sounds more wistful than crushed when he sings “I threw away my one romance/Now I don’t suppose I’ll get a second chance.” And that “sad, sad sound” he sings about is an apt description of the song itself—it features one of those melodies that will break your heart into a million tiny sobbing pieces. Closer “New Year’s Honours” is a lush and luvvery slow number, and equally heartrending—”And there are so many beautiful girls in this world/Just look around and you’ll see,” he sings, adding there must be one for him. But not so fast: if there’s one thing Williams is it’s a realist, and he knows “All of my chances have gone.”

Harvey Williams went on to record two LPs under his own name then made the musical rounds, joining Blueboy for a spell before moving on to the Field Mice and later the Hit Parade and Trembling Blue Stars. In short he remained firmly in the Sarah Records orbit, although Trembling Blue Stars were signed with Shinkansen Recordings, the successor to Sarah Records after it closed up shop in 1995.

It takes a true romantic to never write a happy love song, and Williams is a true romantic—requited love would be his ruination. I would love to hear him try to sing the Turtles’ “Happy Together”—he’d probably self-combust. But that’s fine, because his takes on thwarted and doomed romance on London Weekend are manna for the miserable. In “Deacon Blue,” Donald Fagen of Steely Dan sings, “They got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose.” Message to DF: Harvey Williams is as good a name as any. Great LP.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text