Unfortunately, it seems that even under the best circumstances EPs are rarely worthwhile. Therefore, the amount and quality of territory covered by the Windmills on 2002's Walking Around the World EP is staggering, and that it is done with such grace and confidence it should make listeners eager to hear what these British lads will accomplish with their next LP.
The Windmills' songs aren't grandiose arena rock epics, and thankfully so, as it is the group's down-to-earth sensibility that makes them so easy to embrace so quickly. The players are confident and have great chemistry, but they don't try to dazzle the audience with flash, gimmicks, or aural acrobatics; rather they charm the listener slowly and sweetly with effortless hooks and honesty. Traces of outfits like the Housemartins, Go-Betweens, Lucksmiths, and Green Pajamas are present throughout, making the Windmills a strong candidate to go over well with fans of those artists.
Right out of the gate with "What Was It For?" the Windmills show their strength in crafting songs that balance hope and sadness. The music keeps the spirit bright, jangly, and free, providing the perfect yin to frontman Roy Thirlwall's somber yang. The result is a record that comes across feeling optimistic almost in spite of itself. Heartbroken, but not hopeless. It is an endearing notion.
The album's quietest moment, "Amelia," is an acoustic ballad driven by Thirlwall's weary, almost shy vocals, and matching lyrics that convey their emotion without slipping into the overwhelmingly morose vocal territory of other Brit-mope acts like Gene or the Smiths (though a few instrumental cues taken from Johnny Marr are played quite well).
Album closer "Walking Around the World" is the clear standout, with its verses propelled by muted guitars, and a nearly militaristic drum roll leading into blossoming choruses of rollicking guitars and Thirlwall's thoughtful baritone and soft-spoken refrain "what a funny place to be/walking around the world." As with the rest of the album, Thirlwall's easygoing style makes you feel less like he's singing to you, and more like you're getting a glimpse of his truest feelings by overhearing poetic snippets of his inner dialogue.