XTC: More Than Punk

January 28, 1978
"Caught in the act"

By Colin Irwin

"Hello, we're XTC. You're the audience, and this is 'Radios In Motion'." A violent blast of noise collides with your brain, a few pints of lager collide with your head, and you're involuntarily heaved skywards by the frenetic mass of bodies furiously pogoing. The XTC tour is under way.

We are in salubrious Cockfosters, where the Middlesex Polytechnic is in mayhem -- the visit of XTC (on Friday) has attracted a full house, and if you've got sufficient room to lift your arm and scratch your nose you're extremely fortunate. Such a glorious excess of sweat and booze.


XTC perhaps can't be blamed then for concentrating their music on those whose ultimate joy in life is in hurling their bodies up and down in frenzied inanity. But the band are patently capable of much more -- their richly imaginative treatment of "All Along The Watchtower" is evidence enough -- and, though exhilarating when applied to strong material like "Radios In Motion," this incessant intensity tends to pall towards the end.

A few makeweights appear to creep in, and while they're acceptable enough to this suffocating crowd, they will need to maintain a more balanced momentum later on.

There will undoubtedly be a "later on." They may now find themselves in the punk corner, but if, as is being strongly touted, the beat revival is soon with us, they will fit just as well there too. The best of their material, the irresistible "Statue Of Liberty" (surely destined to be a big hit single), "Neon Shuffle," "I'm Bugged" and "Set Myself On Fire," will overcome any fickle fad.

The songs aren't particularly political, and it's unnecessary and irritating that they show such and apparent obsession for the characteristics popularly attributed to the new wave. I may be doing them an injustice, but certain elements of their set didn't quite ring true.

Despite that reservation, XTC are good, and have the potential to become a whole lot better. Andy Partridge, who handles most of the vocals, doesn't have the most electrifying voice in the land, but is a magnificent 100 percent front man.

Around the charismatic Partridge, the other members are talented beyond mere energy. Terry Chambers is a promising drummer, and the keyboards of Barry Andrews provide an agreeable contrast to the relentless rhythm going all around. The songs are strong and positive, and it's to be hoped they won't get lost chasing fashion in the general melee of the new wave.

XTC should, barring mishap or mistaken ideology, end the year as one of the foremost of the new wave bands, and hopefully will no longer feel compelled to rely on new wave associations for recognition. Little better can have emerged from Swindon since the Great Western Railway and Don Rogers.

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[Thanks to Paulo X.]