The Windmills - Sunlight

matcd014  /  October 2001
The Windmills - Sunlight
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digital   $8.00

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The Windmills - Sunlight

matcd014  /  October 2001

A return to the new release shelves for this popular English band with its second full length. Featuring ten tracks, the album combines the skilled songwriting, sincere vocals and impressive melodies of previous releases with a new air of fervor and conviction. Incorporating keyboards and the occasional harmonica into the classic Windmills brand of guitar pop, the album displays the group's ability to bend the pop template without resorting to kneejerk self-indulgence. Lead track "Unkiss" was previewed on the Matinée Spring Collection CD in April and is only a hint at some of the instantly memorable songs included here.

  1. Unkiss
  2. Pounds, Shillings And Pence
  3. Taxi Fare
  4. When It Was Winter
  5. She's So Hard
  6. Boxing Glove
  7. Cloud Five
  8. Be Groovy Or Leave
  9. Untouch
  10. Drug Autumn


There would be enough evidence from the Melodie Group recordings alone to suggest that Roy Thirlwell is one of the great unsung songwriters of the current age, but thankfully there's even more proof in the recordings of The Windmills. In The Windmills Therlwell joins forces with Dan and Tony Pankhurst, Pete Spicer and Rob Clarke, and in doing so produces some of the finest, most upliftingly down-beat Pop since, well, I have to say it again, since East Village ripped hearts apart with their awesome beat noise back in the late '80s and early '90s. There's clearly some kind of homage being paid to East Village in the sound of The Windmills, but that might be just my thoughts running away with me, and really unfair anyway because the Windmills themselves actually formed initially in 1984 themselves, so maybe it's truer to say that East Village sounded like The Windmills, but there you go. It's probably also true to say that Windmills are still (rightly and thankfully) in thrall of groups like prime Go-Betweens, or The Loft when they were well oiled and lubricating the Living Room, or Hurrah! at their absolute magnificent peak, or Hellfire Sermons at their most roped in and melodic best, which is to say the best of all you can imagine. Windmills are taught and tense, languorous and cooler than cool all at once, which is no mean feat. After their reformation in 1999 they laid the groundwork on the excellent Edge Of August album and have now delivered another real beauty of a record in the new Sunlight collection. There are so many minor Pop classics on Sunlight it's simply criminal that they aren't airing full time on MTV instead of shit like the godawful Starsailor. There's only so much weary talk of 'authenticity' you can take when it comes to Pop, after all, and if the likes of Starsailor go to such great lengths to convince us of their 'worthiness' and 'sensitivity', then you just know they've got to be faking it; turning on the manufactured 'sadness' for the plastic tears of the massed ranks of 'tortured' students, so sad because the girl they fancy from their Chemistry class likes Destiny's Child instead of the Stereophonics. The Windmills, on the other hand, simply go their own way, by-passing the usual 'references' and short-circuiting notions of 'authenticity' by being only natural, by dipping and rising in the manner of the long-distance runner in the mists by the canal every December morning. And naturally The Windmills make sounds for the Autumnal and Winter months, dropping notes that remind of summer and its hazy smiles in the most elliptical of manners. Previous singles 'Drug Autumn' and 'When It Was Winter' are simply gorgeous moments; perfect Pop events frozen in time by the finest of sculptors hands. 'When it was Winter' especially is something to behold, being all magnificent fuzzy chords and crystalline notes bending into the heavens like the Northern Lights just visible in the sky over the tops of the shipyard cranes; a bunch of ragged-hearted Beat outsiders singing a hymn to the moment held in time, guitars clutched high and tight and proud. The snow is all gone, and I love The Windmills with all of my heart.   --Tangents
Southend’s saviours of jangly pop The Windmills return with their second album of infectious indie tunes that puts Essex firmly back on the musical map. Originally formed in 1984 these seaside boys reunited in 1998 and began recording again. Thank goodness they did as they make the world a brighter place. The Windmills show great respect to eighties indie darlings Orange Juice and the Go Betweens and could easily be from that golden era of Postcard Records. Sunlight vegins with the sublime slice of indie pop, Unkiss: “I feel as though the sky is falling on my head. I dunno perhaps it’s something that you said…” sings Roy Thirlwall on the most complete guitar pop songs since This Charming Man. The sheer beauty of Taxi Fare is gorgeous. Mellow strummed guitars and Thirlwall’s sensitive vocal recall the fragile moments of The Field Mice. It’s on the seasonally mal-adjusted Drug Autumn where the Windmills are at their very best. A tale of taking too many drugs and “Listening to Lou Reed records” it deals with the chemically induced negativity and lethargy that drugs bring: “What I gave up was far more precious than what I gained but by then it was already too late…” Finding fault with this album is difficult. Perhaps it’s too short but every song has such a depth and quality that many established bands would struggle to make such a complete album. Sunlight dazzles and the Windmills are turning in the perfect pop breeze.   --The Essex Chronicle
The Windmills are one of a plethora of British pop bands who have the melodies and harmonies needed to break into the spotlight, but for either time or circumstances, churn out great songs to a miniscule yet devoted audience. With one album under its belt with 2000's Edge of August, the band are back with another melodic series of highbrow pop gems that could be compared to Echo & The Bunnymen as well as early Pulp or the undervalued (except in South Korea) Rialto. Beginning with a gorgeous mid-tempo alternative guitar rock arrangement in "Unkiss", lead singer and guitarist Roy Thirlwall has a lot in common with Pulp's Jarvis Cocker in terms of his tone and delivery. "Pounds, Shillings and Pence" is another strong tune that falls in between the Cure and the Smiths, if that's possible. Guitars here resemble the cool and collected approach Johnny Marr made so fashionable while the rhythm guitars have that distinct Cure sound. The tune winds quite easily through its three minutes and change. "Taxi Fare" is probably the album's first of many shining moments, a deliberately paced ballad that describes British urban life. Picking up the tempo when the harmonica kicks in, the song moves to and fro between styles at a lovely leisurely rhythm. If there is a downside to the song, it's perhaps because it tends to be far too tight, not allowing for the groove to continue an extra minute or two. A lot of British groups rely on simply being British and dropping the lilt into shoddy lyrics just for style or brownie points. But the Windmills don't opt for that cliché, especially on "When It Was Winter". Sounding more like Morrissey here than at any other point on the record, Thirlwall reflects on the past and love gone astray. "I don't care anymore, I don't care anymore", he sings just slightly above a rich sonic landscape. The brevity of the songs, though, brings to mind current Brit pop darlings Belle and Sebastian. Probably the nadir of the album is "She's So Hard", average attempts both musically and lyrically. "Get me out of here," Thirlwall says, perhaps showing a deeper meaning for the listener. Although it doesn't drag, the song shouts unoriginal. Side two begins with a rousing and rollicking "Boxing Glove", with drummer Pete Spicer coming to the forefront. The use of horns and a rather funky bass line propels it along, making it quite comparable to Pulp's His N' Hers album. The Go Betweens are another group that comes to mind when listening to "Cloud Five", a downbeat affair with piano and tension that builds before disappearing. The wording of the '80s synth flavored "Be Groovy Or Leave" is a bit difficult at times, but the song has a lush flow and fluidity to it. The echo effects also give it a nice texture. "Untouch" is basically a musical reprise of "Unkiss" with an identical tempo and arrangement and barely audible harmonies. The Windmills will never be accused of rejecting a good musical idea simply because of its time period or hipness. "Drug Autumn" reverts back to gorgeous if bleak guitar chords over some brief keyboard punctuation. "What I gave up was far more precious than what I gained / But by then it was already too late," Thirlwall sings with as much Robert Smith reflection and disappointment as possible. The Windmills have created a real corker of an album, one that probably will sink commercially. Perfect for those who, to quote a line from the last track enjoy "listening to Lou Reed records and never going out". If only pop bands honed thier craft this well.   --Pop Matters
Some of the finest, most upliftingly down-beat off-kilter pop since East Village ripped hearts apart with their awesomely melodic beat noise back in the late '80s and early '90s.   --Careless Talk Costs Lives
This is probably my favorite batch of Windmills songs yet. Not that their previous records weren't satisfying in any way, but this record is just that much better. The band sounds much tighter, and I don't know, I just like the whole thing more. A few of the songs have been released already, like the A-sides to the last couple singles ("When It Was Winter" & "Drug Autumn"), as well as "Pounds, Shillings And Pence" and the excellent lead-off track, "Unkiss", which appears here in a shorter version than was heard on the Matinée Spring Collection cd earlier this year. But there are still six other songs that are just as vital as those, like "Cloud Five", "She's So Hard" and "Taxi Fare" for example. With just the right mix of jangly pop and melancholy, this is just one of those classic bands that can't really do much wrong... MTQ=10/10   --IndiePages
The Windmills have the charm of The Housemartins and the wit of The Divine Comedy. The songs on the consistently engaging “Sunlight” drape Roy Thirlwall’s melancholy moan over jangling guitars, crafting impeccable melodies and irresistible choruses. What is so remarkable is that the songs succeed despite their simple construction. Consisting of little more then jangling guitars and simple rhythms, The Windmills use singability as their trump card. The songs are not gigantic and commanding, but they are infectious nonetheless. They are the classic Britpop band, sad-sack lyrics and vocals combined with strummy guitars. An outstanding effort, on par with recent Cinerama.   --Shredding Paper
British guitar pop group the Windmills follow in the footsteps of such great guitar pop bands like the House of Love, the Weather Prophets, the Go-Betweens, and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. They have the same ringing, jangling guitar and propulsive drumming. Roy Thirlwall has a world-weary mope of a voice that is eerily reminiscent of Lawrence of Felt at times. Like the songs of the aforementioned bands, the songs on Sunlight are mostly depressing and heartbroken: "Pounds, Shilling and Pence" and "When It Was Winter" are almost desolate in a shrugged-shoulders kind of way. Even the jauntily titled "Be Groovy or Leave" is a downer, since it isn't the singer giving the command, he's on the receiving end. Bummer. While the Windmills don't quite reach the level of their influences, Sunlight is a pretty good record and is recommended to fans of sensitive British guitar pop.   --All Music Guide
"I don't want to hurt you, I don't want to make you sad/I just want to hurt you/I just want to make you sad," sings Roy Thirlwall during "Cloud Five," a song on the UK quartet The Windmills' second album Sunlight. Beauty and sadness are at the heart of their songs, which are melodic pop songs that articulate the complexity of human relations. Their lyrics capture that in poetic ways; take this line (from the first track "Unkiss"), for example: "I feel as though the sky is falling on my head/I don't know, perhaps it's something that you said." The people in the Windmills' songs are constantly reaching out to each other and cutting each other off. Their songs portray the ways feelings change, the way people inevitably sting each other if they mean to or not, but also hint towards moments of connection, understanding and hope. It's a truism that the saddest music is usually the prettiest, and Sunlight is another example--these songs are gorgeous. Yet they're not sad for the sake of being so; they're real, showing people for the lovable messes that they are.   --Erasing Clouds
the windmills are from southend. that might not mean that much to you (as the groove farm once sang) but trust me (as the flatmates sang), as a kid i used to go and visit the relatives there all the time, freeze on the pier (when it was the world's longest and all that), paddle in the sludge, dodge jellyfish on the beach, and when i got a bit older we'd drive out there and fail to get into any pubs (in retrospect, probably just as well as we would have got pulped). and when i'm 60 i'm going to retire there, with my beer on the sideboard, knocking out chas n' dave classics on the old joanna. fact. southend is therefore one of the last places - much as i love it - that you expect witty, wry, cultured indie-pop songs to be born. so three cheers for the windmills then. "sunlight" is an album of intelligent, breathy half-jangle which in any tolerable universe would be gleefully outstaying its welcome in the top 5 album charts. in our own, however, it just shrugs knowingly and gets on with the job, a bit like the ice cream vans that have to traipse up and down the front at southend for the 10 months of the year that it's winter in essex. it's a shame that half the songs are not new; versions of the respectful east village tribute "when it was winter", the previous single "drug autumn" (and its flip "pounds, shillings and pence") we have all heard before - while the decidedly great "unkisss" featured on "the wedding cd compilation" (and "untouch" is merely, grrr, a "reprise" of the same song - an abominable tactic, sirs). this does however enable us to turn our attention to some of the unheard numbers, as they are undoubtedly wonderful (nearly as much so as southend united and that legendary "roots hall roar". ahem). "boxing glove" is a remarkable hymn, subverting the traditional pop twang a la the field mice's "coach station reunion" and pivoting on a lovely change of pace when old drummer rob clarke, assisted by some fieldmicey bass, just ups the tempo into each verse. its lyrics follow an ill-disguised theme on this album of submitting to a female protagonist's (I hope) metaphorical punches. "cloud five" on the other hand, is lighter and airier, an unprepossessing 2 1/2 minutes of trad-indie cirrocumulus. while the fabulous "taxi fare" kicks off with a perfect, tremulous guitar line before roy thirlwall's deep soothing tones are belatedly coaxed out to marshal things - in such mellifluous company, even the harmonica that seeps in towards the end is forgivable. "be groovy or leave" (how many times have we heard that sentiment....) is also a fine song, again relying on subtlety and understatement to just hit home that bit harder: it also acts as the perfect showcase for the guy's resigned, sardonic intonation as he repeats the title in amongst the closing bars. the other previously unheard number is "she's so hard", a mildly sugary concoction the chorus to which ("[her] bare fists punching") unfortunately grates rather. and for those of you (to be fair, the entire population of the world, minus a pressing of 1,000) who hadn't heard it before, "unkiss" is another song that envelops you in its warmth, with the drums and bass combining in the chorus in a way reminiscent of the brilliant corners' "anticipation". As such, it does make a great lead track. peace out to the windmills, then: evidence that southend is more than just the place at the end of billy bragg's "A13". they'll succeed without our patronage, but at least we can say we were there.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times