Music

The Windmills: Now Is Then

Jason MacNeil

The Windmills

Now Is Then

Label: Matinee
US Release Date: 2003-11-03
UK Release Date: 2004-01-19
Amazon
iTunes

The Windmills are a band who create flawless pop songs, or so they did on 2001's Sunlight. The group, consisting of singer Roy Thirlwall, guitarist Tony Pankhurst, bassist Dan Parkhurst, and drummer Rob Clarke, have returned with another album that still has all the greatness of previous records without repeating themselves too often. The fact that it was recorded over seven days, but over the course of nearly two years, might be cause for alarm. But not to worry, this is another gem. Recalling the finest days of bands such as the Go-Betweens and the little known group with Morrissey and Marr, "Ever to Exist" is a mid-tempo melancholic pop tune that glides along effortlessly à la a Cure ballad. "You are the most delicate innocent human being ever to exist", Thirlwall sings before the song evolves slightly. Sounding just a bit resigned, the Windmills are at the top of their game on this tune.

What is apparent is that the band shines from start to end, although some fans of British pop might find them a bit too sweet in the vein of Belle and Sebastian. "Beach Girls 1918" has enough "ba da bah"s and "do do do"s within to make some turn their ears away, but the Pulp-ish mood and Brit charm carry the song without fault. It moves a bit faster here but glistens courtesy of Clarke and Pankhurst (both of them). The sing-a-long refrains are repeated near the ending, but the guitars become grittier and a tad harder. It makes one wonder what the hell they are doing on a small indie label, no offence intended at Matinee. But the jangle-heavy pop seeps to the surface on the brilliant title track, toeing the line between New Order and the Smiths. Thirlwall gives just enough effort to make it work, but not much more, sounding rather monotonous in spots on the song. The tight guitar combination is another asset, with both playing off each other as the group rocks out for the first of a few instances. The movie Lost in Translation should've included this nugget!

Taking a bit of steam out of the proceedings is "Footprints", a sparser and far tamer tune that has a slower Blur or the Housemartins vibe. The group isn't taking a rest here, but the dichotomy between this song and its predecessor shows the range the Windmills have. The slow building "Walking around the World" closely resembles something from U2's The Joshua Tree sessions, with the gorgeous military-like drumbeat and the guitar just accentuating Thirlwall's vocals. The deliberateness they give the song makes it all the more anthem material. "All roads seem to lead to me / What a funny place to be", Thirlwall sings with a hint of irony in his voice and minus Bono's bombastic nature. He leaves that to the band, all hitting the ground running with the payoff coming at its monumental end. But the album ebbs back again with the Cure-ish "Your Fingers and Mine", a very good song that still pales somewhat compared to others on the near dozen-track record.

The second half of the record bristles with "Something Spring", a track that brings to mind "Sally Cinnamon" from the Stone Roses. Again the group is tight, but not enough to stifle any of the solos or musical highpoints. Possibly the only departure musically from the record is "Across the Playing Fields", with Thirlwall making high notes more often than not. The swaying and lush melody is excellent, although the slow dance tempo makes the arrangement flow. The bridge doesn't quite come off as spotless, but it's still able to keep you interested. The jam '70s ending leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth. "Amelia" is the first to divert from the pattern of fast-ditty-and-then-slow-ditty. Reeking of Nick Drake's lilt, the effort is pretty but seems stilted in some flowery areas. "Amelia, don't throw your reckless dreams away / You're going to need them one of these days", go the lyrics of this possibly one-take effort.

One last urgent kick at the can comes in "Summer Snow", a rather polished pop rock number that takes a while to get inured to. Harking back to Joy Division or early New Order, the tune than moves into a style that Modern English perfected at one time. It is also the winding song on the record, moving from light alternative rock to heavy guitars and back. "Time Machine" ends it on a good note, more anthem-like foundations bringing the song to fruition. Talking about mundane things like going to a supermarket, the Windmills are able to create one magnificent nugget after another. If you like British pop, or just outstanding yet meticulous pop in general, do yourself a favor!

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image