Fighting through another sunny day: The paradoxical genius of ‘London Weekend’
“London Weekend” will absolutely tear your heart out and rip it to shreds in the sweetest, happiest way possible.
The 1993 album by British singer-songwriter Harvey William is existential dread in a sugary coating with a cherry on top. Released by Williams under the stage name “Another Sunny Day,” it’s a genius and paradoxical combination of effervescent indie pop and uncomfortably bleak themes. Jangly guitars and buoyant melodies accompany Williams’ heartwrenching and brutally honest lyricism, manufacturing an experience that will have the listener simultaneously dancing and questioning the meaning of their own existence.
This album sounds like your girlfriend dumping you for another at the beginning of summer while you’re living in a 600-square-foot apartment with two other dudes that only know how to cook roast beef, the rent for which you’re barely able to scrape together by working your minimum wage window-tinting job in Greenwich, but every single day is bright and sunny and you just bought a used 4-track recorder and a faux-leather bound journal instead of groceries with your welfare check. And it’s awesome.
To be less specific, “London Weekend” feels like a diary that tells the story of a poor soul who has lost the love of his life to another man. All 14 songs are relatively cohesive, each one seeming like a different entry that presents a new puzzle piece to this messy and heartache-ridden journey that Williams appears to be enduring.
The album opens with the explosive “Anorak City,” a two-minute headrush of zesty indie pop characterized by chugging distorted guitar chords driven by a punchy drum machine and lo-fi vocals that evoke feelings of carefree and summery living. Unlike the rest of “London Weekend,” though, this song lacks the distinct underlying sadness present in most, if not all, of the 13 other tracks. This track could be viewed as representing the phase of a relationship where things are still in full swing, and a lover is genuinely content with his circumstances.
The second track, “I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist,”, is where Williams’ world starts to crash and burn. The entire song revolves around — you guessed it — Williams love for a girl who doesn’t know he exists. Taking it hyperbolically, it could suggest that Williams’ love interest has now distanced herself from him to the point where he might as well not even exist in her world. On the flip side, if you interpret this more literally, it goes to show just how much of a sucker Williams is for infatuation and idealized love. Whether that makes him a hopeless romantic or just pathetic (maybe both) is up for you to decide — but no matter which way you swing it, this song is still an amazing combination of beautiful guitar melodies and displays of pure emotion.
One of my favorite tracks on this record, “The Centre Of My Little World,” is disgustingly bittersweet in the best way imaginable. Williams’ beautifully thin and youthful voice seems to almost plead with his love interest, passionately and even somewhat pathetically proclaiming his unwavering commitment to her. The euphonic guitar and vocal progressions slowly unfold into a bewitching tension every few measures, creating a kind of melodic climax before quickly resolving back into its regular pleasant and harmonious rhythm.
If there was one track on this record to sum up the despondent themes of the entire project, it would be “Rio,”whose lyrics read:
Not so long ago
I tried to make you love me
I told you that I loved you
Then asked you if you loved me
And although you said no
There’s still something inside me
That trembles when I hear your name
You’re still the only girl for me
But I just can’t forget you
I know it’s all so pointless
But honestly I love you
Perhaps I should admit
That he’d be better for you
But I could never say that
Because it’s simply not true
This lyricism shows Williams at his lowest point in the album, pitifully yearning to rekindle his past relationship. However, in true “Another Sunny Day” fashion, the instrumentals are deceivingly cheery.
On a slightly lighter (but perhaps more morbid) note, the track “You Should All Be Murdered” is one of the catchiest and most thematically interesting cuts on the record, and could easily pass for an early demo from The Smiths. While the song mostly sounds like a stroll in the park under a sky full of rainbows, there is a clear edge to the instrumentals, creating an experience that keeps the listener on their toes.
As a departure from his otherwise straightforward songwriting, Williams takes an indirect and metaphorical route in expressing his emotions through this song. He states that he’s going to murder everyone he doesn’t like, and then lists the kinds of annoying people that are murder-worthy. This moment is an effective relatively self-aware way of expressing and hyperbolizing just how extreme his thoughts and actions are. It extends the phenomenon of his obsessively passionate love life into other areas of his personality as well. Intense heartbreak can certainly invoke high levels of irritability and irrationality, and this song could also just be another way of Williams expressing his intense inner turmoil from losing the love of his life.
The third to last track, “The Very Beginning,” is where the first real ray of hope begins to poke out from the ashes of Williams’ life. Some of the unusually positive lyrics read:
So let’s try
To start anew
So let’s forget her
Let’s start again from the very beginning
Let’s carry on till we get to an ending
Till we get to an ending
Williams finally appears to be attempting to move on from his past lover and get on with his life. This newfound optimism only compounds over the next two tracks, and ultimately reaches a climax with the album’s final track, “New Year’s Honours,” whose most notable lyrics go:
And there are so many beautiful girls in this world
Just look around and you’ll see
That there are so many beautiful girls in this world
There must be one somewhere for me
Though still lamenting his loneliness, Williams is clearly opting for a more positive outlook on love. In this song, we can still hear his pain, but in a new light that demonstrates hopefulness and serious character growth.
All in all, the project lives up to its name. The phrase “another sunny day,” while seemingly radiant and cheery on the surface, conveys an underlying level of monotony. Just “another sunny day,” where there is definite beauty, but you can’t quite escape the sensation of feeling trapped within the cycle of life or any given hardship.
However, Williams teaches us that through this draining and sometimes even devastating monotony, hope can eventually be found, even if we’re still extremely doubtful of how positive things may turn out. No matter the circumstance, there is always a grain of hope that we can grab onto, which can give us the strength to get through just Another Sunny Day.