XTC in the Press: 1982

Hot Rocks

XTC: High quality pop with a high I.Q. Left to right are Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge and Terry Chambers.

XTC's smart rock

Do XTC seem too smart to play rock & roll, a music often characterized by high decibels and a low I.Q.? “In some people's books, yes,” concedes Andy Partridge, the main brain behind one of pop's cagiest bands.

Their third U.S. album is English Settlement (Epic), and, if awarding grades, you'd have to give them an A. XTC are clever, but never in the irritating manner of the class know-it-all. None of the four players is a virtuoso — in fact, Partridge laughs, when formed nine years ago, they modeled themselves after the New York Dolls, the Stooges, and “literally anybody who couldn't play but looked real flash.” Over the years they've become resourceful musicians, though, relying on heavily accented rhythms and sparse arrangements. In XTC, says Partridge, “Knowing when not to play is important.”

Although the members come from Swindon, England, XTC have been neglected in their strife-torn homeland, where their often light-hearted sophisticated pop is considered nearly treasonous. America's interest has been piqued, however, and 1980's Black Sea sold impressively here. That it did comes as a complete surprise to Partridge, who once claimed the only way the group would take America was “by accident.”

Black Sea was just the tiniest of accidents, though. We only dropped a pin,” he grins conspiratorially, “whereas I'd like to drop a whole tray of cutlery.”

With record companies searching for imageless bands these days, XTC stand a chance of succeeding. “We don't have an image,” Partridge says brightly. “We don't look flash or groovy. From the fifties on it's been the anti-heroes who've become the heroes.

“We're different, sort of like” — how's this for an analogy? — “four Fred McMurrays.”

—Philip Beake

May 1982

XTC's 20-city American tour was cancelled after the first show when leader Andy Partridge collapsed just prior to a concert at the Hollywood Palladium. “Complete mental and physical exhaustion,” as well as a possible ulcer, were the reasons given. Our spies report that Partridge was seen acting weird earlier that day and “questioning what he was doing with his life.” Good question, Andy!!

[Thanks to Bill Wikstrom]

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1 April 2014