Author Topic: The "XTC are really really good" thread  (Read 48730 times)

Angrew Lloyg Wegger

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The "XTC are really really good" thread
« on: July 19, 2015, 12:48:13 AM »
Thought I'd do one of those generic 'love' threads that seem to be around here now.

XTC are really really good. Not 'were', their music is just brilliant even now, in the wake of the loads of different bands that have tried to copy them. As far as I'm concerned, their music is the absolute benchmark for how guitar pop should be done. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding might possibly be the smartest, most talented British songwriters in pop music - in an ideal world they'd be held in the same regard as Mr Lennon McCartney. And the tunes, christ the tunes - don't think anyone else could write melodies as well as those guys.

Given that their career direction in the 80s basically involved going 'pop', stopping touring and putting a load of orchestral stuff in their albums, theoretically they should have turned shite. But they didn't - the stuff on Skylarking and Nonsuch is fucking majestic and incredible and (in my opinion at least) even better than the early fizzy new wave stuff (as much as I like that). And some of their stuff was just weird as fuck, which is what you want really.

Some of my faves (done chronologically):

Are You Receiving Me?

Helicopter

Respectable Street

No Language in Our Lungs

Travels in Nihilon[nb]Proper fucked up. Although I might as well have just lumped the whole 'Black Sea' album on 'ere[/nb]

Senses Working Overtime

Deliver Us From The Elements

Ladybird

Train Running Low on Soul Coal[nb]Also twatting mental. On a twatting mental album.[/nb]

My Love Explodes[nb]technically a Dukes of Stratosphear one, but still brill. Get all the dukes stuff, it's unbelievably good[/nb]

1000 Umbrellas[nb]all powerpop should be like this. all break-up songs would be better if they were as fucking marvellous as this[/nb]

Dear God[nb]now I used to think this one was bollocks cause of the 'look at me I've just discovered atheism' lyrics, but I've had a kind of heel-face turn on this, cause it's still a fucking great piece of music innit[/nb]

Mayor of Simpleton[nb]Check out that fucking bassline[/nb]

Chalkhills and Children

Wrapped in Grey

River of Orchids

Green Man

Stupidly Happy

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX(TC)
« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 01:26:52 AM by Angrew Lloyg Wegger »

Absorb the anus burn

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2015, 01:06:18 AM »
Yes, absolutely - one of my favourite bands with a stunning back catalogue. The first five LPs (with Terry Chambers drumming) are their best (IMHO) and Skylarking probably the one I like least, but it's still a very good album.

Some favourite XTC tracks off the top of my head....

- Helicopter.
- Living Through Another Cuba.
- Rocket From A Bottle.
- Jason And The Argonauts.
- English Roundabout.
- Are You Receiving Me?
- Battery Brides.
- Millions.
- The Wheel And The Maypole.
- Burning With Optimism's Flame.
- Travels In Nihilon
- Scissor Man.
- I'd Like That.
- Great Fire.
- Love On A Farmboys Wages.
- Neon Shuffle.
- Science Friction.

And that's before listing anything by the Dukes Of Stratosphere.

Angrew Lloyg Wegger

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2015, 01:12:42 AM »
And that's before listing anything by the Dukes Of Stratosphere.

Yup, both the dukes albums are fantastic. It really says something that they can be both fantastic genre pastiches and great songs in their own right.

Dammit, I wish Nowhere Man was online so that I can see what he makes of Pale and Precious.

Angrew Lloyg Wegger

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2015, 01:22:28 AM »
Oh bollocks you've just reminded me of a load of tracks I missed off my list. Great Fire in particular. Christ, Mummer is one hell of a crazy album. That, along with The Big Express is probably the most pushing-the-boat-out they god.

Milverton

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2015, 01:34:24 AM »
I need to make another proper effort with this lot. Outside the obvious; Nigel, Simpleton, The Disapponted and I'd Like That I've often found them bloody hard work.

Frankly they've seemed to me to veer from just clever, to too bloody clever by half. I've just grabbed everything from Spotify so that's my week sorted. Well, I'll be happy if I can last until Tuesday, at least.

Edit: add Farmboy's Wages to the above list. That was pretty good.

Angrew Lloyg Wegger

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2015, 01:42:01 AM »
^ well frankly "too clever by half" is right up my street, so I don't know if my recommendations are particularly worthwhile. I usually suggest Skylarking to newcomers, that's probably the most accessible of their stuff. Although if you're not much of a power-pop head, it's likely to be just as baffling

Milverton

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2015, 09:52:06 AM »
^ well frankly "too clever by half" is right up my street, so I don't know if my recommendations are particularly worthwhile. I usually suggest Skylarking to newcomers, that's probably the most accessible of their stuff. Although if you're not much of a power-pop head, it's likely to be just as baffling

I'd put Squeeze in that category too and there's plenty of their stuff I like.

Yes, Minister is sometimes often too clever by half, and that's magnificent, so it was not a straight up pejorative.

purlieu

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2015, 11:42:38 AM »
Not a fan of the earlier stuff in general - I tried very hard but it's just not my kind of thing. Skylarking onwards though, it's all perfection for me. I can never choose between that, Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch as my favourite of theirs. It might have to be Skylarking, just for the fact that it cuts out the weird stuff and just manages to pack in 15 songs, all of which could have been hit singles given the proper backing (actually maybe not 'Dying'). I don't think I've ever come across an album so loaded with such memorable, tuneful pop songs.

Favourites list:

Senses Working Overtime
What in the World?
Ballet for a Rainy Day
1,000 Umbrellas
Earn Enough For Us
You're a Good Man Albert Brown
Braniac's Daughter
The Mayor of Simpleton
Poor Skeleton Steps Out
Scarecrow People
Merely a Man
Chalkhills and Children
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
Holly Up On Poppy
Rook
War Dance
Wrapped in Grey
Easter Theatre
Greenman
The Last Balloon

Colin and Andy are both marvellous lyricists, too. Oranges & Lemons manages to be full of anti-authoritarian songs, lots of stuff about loving everybody, without ever coming across trite or immature. And they can both turn a witty phrase with the best of them.

iamcoop

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2015, 12:54:55 PM »
I've got Drums and Wires which is great and Black Sea which is fantastic. Where to next then? I'm assuming just keep working forward chronologically?

daf

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2015, 01:57:39 PM »
Yes, but be prepared for some huge musical changes between albums. They sound like several different bands - often simultaneously on the same song.

It divides roughly thus -

White Music, Go 2 : Fizzy Scratchy insect punk

Drums & Wires , Black Sea : New wave Power Pop

English Settlement, Mummer : 12 string Acoustic jangle folk with a bit of Jazz

The Big Express : Industrial Mechanical Klank (w/ Country & Jazz elements)

25 o' Clock & Psonic Psunspot : Psychedelic (no jazz!)

Skylarking : Pastoral Vaughn Williams psychedelic pop (w/ Spy film jazz)

Oranges & Lemons : Fluorescent shiny 80's psychedelic pop (again with the jazz)

Nonsuch, Apple Venus : Baroque Orchestral Rock (w/ a jollop of Jazz)

Wasp Star : Less Orchestra, More Rock Guitar.

If you liked Drums & Wires and Black Sea, Wasp Star is well worth a listen.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 02:16:38 PM by daf »

Vodka Margarine

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2015, 02:26:04 PM »
This World Over is about as perfect as songs get.

purlieu

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2015, 04:03:35 PM »
English Settlement certainly has a fair bit of the choppy feel of the preceeding albums, just mellowed out by liberal use of acoustic guitars, so is a good place to go. Other than The Big Express, which is a bit bonkers, it is a logical progression from album to album - although the logic is more obvious in hindsight.

Brundle-Fly

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2015, 06:51:09 PM »
My favourite band for many years. I never understand that hoary old XTC criticism of them being "too clever clever". What does that mean? They're imaginative?


Vodka Margarine

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2015, 07:22:51 PM »
Yeah, my dad's bugbear with XTC is that they're a bit 'elbow patchy'. As criticisms go it's supremely lame.

Absorb the anus burn

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2015, 07:39:54 PM »
It's the intelligent lyrics and turns of phrase[nb]- She's got to be ob-seen to be ob-heard...

- Seems the more I travel, from the foam to the gravel, as the nets unravel....

- Never seen her glowing, all that light she throwing - like some aurora from her head is growing - reaching from the ground and hovering 'round like a Navaho blanket.

- The insect-headed worker-wife will hang her washing on the line. Her husband burns his paper, sucks his pipe while studying their cushioned floor. His vicious poly-paste breath comes out. Their wall-paper world is shattered by his shout. A boy in blue is busy banging out a headache on the kitchen door... All the while Graham slept on, dreaming of a world where he could do just what he wanted to...[/nb] and brilliant tunes that make them so appealing... Their songs swing like fuck.

daf

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2015, 07:40:29 PM »
my dad's bugbear with XTC is that they're a bit 'elbow patchy'

Take no notice of the silly gentleman Candice Marie



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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2015, 07:51:43 PM »
they are so good I named my radio show after one of their songs, I have also written
to them three times to record a session for me in kind return but have been met with,
tumbleweed silence

23 Daves

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2015, 11:09:22 PM »
One of my favourite bands of all time, and I'm also one of those weirdos who genuinely believes that "The Big Express" is their finest album. Though fair enough, even if they'd never recorded that there would still be "Black Sea", which is astonishing, the Dukes stuff, which caused The Stone Roses to hire John Leckie to produce them as well, and all manner of other goodness besides. Andy Partridge can write masterful pop songs, but he also knows just how to add elements which cause them to retain your interest for years on end. To this day I seem to hear new bits and pieces in XTC songs.

I also love the fact that they chose one of Colin Moulding's weirdest tracks, "Wake Up", to be a single. "We'll put out the one with chopping guitars and insane cross-rhythms next, that'll do nicely." It didn't chart, obviously. https://youtu.be/Oiyn0_m2LZQ

Vodka Margarine

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2015, 11:59:29 PM »
It's astonishing how many of their singles underperformed or didn't chart at all. I got 'Fossil Fuel' in a charity shop in 2003 and that was my way in. It's up there with Pet Shop Boys' 'PopArt' in the indispensible Best ofs stakes.

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2015, 08:23:21 AM »
I can show off my fancy 7" singles sleeves if it's not too boasty?

Brundle-Fly

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2015, 08:39:43 AM »
I've got all those XTC 7"s. Funny how they've not gone up in value in over thirty odd years. The only one I don't have is, of course Science Friction UK 7" which is one of the rarest collectable punk(?) singles.

purlieu

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2015, 11:33:56 AM »
I think my favourite Partridge lyric is found in the absurdity of rhyming "umbilical" with "season cycle".

Brundle-Fly

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2015, 12:02:51 PM »
We'd laugh because each drop would make me grow up
Really high, really high like a really high thing
Say, a sunflower

I'd like that

Serge

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2015, 01:47:33 PM »
It's astonishing how many of their singles underperformed or didn't chart at all.

This was always something that bewildered me as a youngster - it seemed that everyone I knew liked XTC, or at least liked some of their songs, but they just weren't buying them, I guess (except my dad, who had 'Drums And Wires'). I think 'The Big Express' was where I got into them, but as I went back and started getting the earlier albums too, I can't quite remember - it would certainly be around that time, mid-eighties, anyway. 'Skylarking' is probably my favourite album, but they never did release a duffer.

I remember reading an interview with Partridge a few years back where the writer said that he was played a few unreleased tracks that Partridge had made at home, including one that sounded (deliberately) exactly like 'Ege Bamyasi'-period Can - does anyone know if this ever got released?

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2015, 02:03:02 PM »
Not much to say other than i love them and Fossil Fuel is one of the most eclectic single collections i've ever heard.

I don't know either Apple Venus, is it good then?

Here they are on kids tv


daf

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #25 on: July 20, 2015, 02:06:10 PM »
he was played a few unreleased tracks that Partridge had made at home, including one that sounded (deliberately) exactly like 'Ege Bamyasi'-period Can - does anyone know if this ever got released?

Might have included it on the Fuzzy Warbles 8 CD set of demos? There a ton of great unreleased songs on them.

Something from the pre XTC Vaults as The Helium Kids :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a36Y_1hKTi0


Brundle-Fly

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #26 on: July 20, 2015, 02:20:55 PM »
This was always something that bewildered me as a youngster - it seemed that everyone I knew liked XTC, or at least liked some of their songs, but they just weren't buying them, I guess (except my dad, who had 'Drums And Wires'). I think 'The Big Express' was where I got into them, but as I went back and started getting the earlier albums too, I can't quite remember - it would certainly be around that time, mid-eighties, anyway. 'Skylarking' is probably my favourite album, but they never did release a duffer.

I remember reading an interview with Partridge a few years back where the writer said that he was played a few unreleased tracks that Partridge had made at home, including one that sounded (deliberately) exactly like 'Ege Bamyasi'-period Can - does anyone know if this ever got released?

Better a get a 'new broom', long story, but I know them a bit and once had the honour of standing in Andy's famous shed. He played me that Can pastiche track and it was really good. I was trying to convince him to do a Krautrock Dukes project , Herzogs Von Stratosphare?  It hasn't been released.
He also played me some of his Robin Hitchcock collaborations which were excellent but that album seems to be on ice. He said Robin is permanently touring so they can never get a head of steam on it.

wosl

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #27 on: July 20, 2015, 02:56:22 PM »
They didn't half have a way with a choon. English Settlement usually gets leap-frogged by Skylarking or Oranges & Lemons in 'best album' evaluations, but I got it when it came out on the back of Senses making a good showing in the singles chart, and it retains a magic for that reason.  I'd still say it's one of their most consistent and cohesive albums.  Runaways with its anxious, rolling vibe is a super opening track, and there's All Of A Sudden, Yacht Dance, Jason ATA, English Roundabout, SWOT, Snowman...roller-coaster peaks throughout (the original embossed vinyl cover design was very nice, too).  Always liked that whiny, slightly belligerent, hayseedish singing-style, and Dave Gregory crafted some sweet guitar parts. They can be lyrically weak, especially Moulding, whose social commentary songs are often markedly rote and trite; Robert Christgau, a bloke I don't make a habit of agreeing with very often, got it about right when he said that XTC are quite a clever band, but not as clever as they like to think they are.  The chapter that covers the recording of Skylarking in Paul Myers' super book on Todd Rundgren is well worth reading.

Dr Rock

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #28 on: July 20, 2015, 03:24:55 PM »
Quick trivia question an XTC fan of my acquaintance set me - name four XTC songs with DC comic connections in the titles.

daf

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Re: The "XTC are really really good" thread
« Reply #29 on: July 20, 2015, 03:42:09 PM »
Sgt. Rock
Brainiac's Daughter  [nb](cheating - it's the Dukes!)[/nb]
That's Really Super Supergirl

um . . .

Snowman?