Miscellaneous XTC Press Clippings: 2006

December 2006
Page 22

Countdowns to XTC
Andy Partridge presents demos in box of Proustian lushness.

“I'm a slut for packaging”, says XTC's Andy Partridge. His new 9-CD box set The Official Fuzzy Warbles Collector's Edition is incontrovertible evidence. Each of his Fuzzy Warbles demo discs come in a fake 1950s stamp album, presenting song-sketches from every phase of his career.

“The box harks back to the time when stamp albums had a badly drawn UN globe and pictures of stamps you couldn't find”, explains Partridge, “plus the space thing they had, with a kids' encyclopedia graphic of cutting through the Earth's strata where you see dinosaur skeletons. It's that musically, essentially”.

With his Monstrance album of improvised music with early XTC keyboard player Barry Andrews released in January, MOJO must also ask about that long-dormant parent band. “I speak of XTC in the past tense”, admits Partridge. “It's in the freezer and I dunno if it'll ever come out again. Colin [Moulding] phoned me recently and said he wasn't interested in music any more, and it wouldn't be XTC without him. But I have been ummm'ing and arr'ing about working with Dave Gregory again so I mustn't say ‘no’”.

[Thanks to Paul Culnane]


XTC set to release nine-disc box of rarities

By Greg Prato Tue Aug 29, 4:04 AM ET

NEW YORK (Billboard) - XTC guitarist Andy Partridge recently combed his vaults and discovered an exorbitant amount of rarities and outtakes recorded by the defunct English art-rock combo, resulting in a nine-disc boxed set that will come out on October 16.

"The Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album" (Virtual Label) features alternate versions of many XTC favorites, unreleased tracks and also unfinished material that Partridge revisited and completed for this release.

"Working on this stuff took many years," Partridge told Billboard.com. "I just kept writing -- who knows what's going to fall out? It was recorded in spare bedrooms, the kitchen, the attic and of course my now infamous garden shed. Pop songs, radio jingles, film and TV music, or just plain old goofing about."

Partridge rediscovered many forgotten tracks in the process. "'I Don't Want To Be Here' for one," he said. "Lots of folks love this song but XTC was pretty democratic, so if someone didn't go for a tune, it got binned. 'Everything' was another. One of the most touching lyrics I ever wrote -- in the toilet. 'The Bland Leading the Bland' -- so proud of this autobiographical rallying call to end that boring donut mentality. You can kind of see why I just didn't want these songs collecting dust and going unheard. We threw away better material than most bands made a career out of."

Among his other favorites: "Wonder Annual" ("I always thought XTC should have recorded this surprisingly structured psychedelic slice"), "End of the Pier" ("It would have made a great out-of-season seaside companion piece to 'Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her"') and "2 Rainbeau Melt" ("Some of my favorite-ever lyrics matched to a trippy improvised soundscape. It arrived too late for the 'Wasp Star' album").

Partridge also helped assemble the packaging, which he modeled after a child's stamp album. "How better to represent a large and diverse set of home recordings than to depict them as a series of imaginary stamps?," he said.

Partridge has a number of other projects in the works, the first of which will be "a double-disc set of purely improvised music called 'Monstrance.' My partners in one-take, overdub-free, unrehearsed crime are Barry Andrews -- ex-XTC keys man from way back -- and (drummer) Martyn Barker. Let's face it, nothing short of capital punishment is going to stop me making music."


Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to William Loring]


Here comes President Enik again · Jul 21, 05:18 PM by Enik

XTC in 1989

Earlier this week, I posted the XTC song, “Here Comes President Kill Again,” from the band's 1989 album, Oranges and Lemons.

I presented the song in conjunction with unflattering comments about President George W. Bush:

“When I first heard XTC's song, ‘Here Comes President Kill Again’ in high school, I lacked the life experience and historical scope to truly appreciate Andy Partridge's wickedly droll ‘salute’ to war-mongering leaders past and present. Thanks to the ‘liberation’ of Iraq at the hands of Lil' G, I now can!”

I then followed with this statistic:

“According to IraqBodyCount.org, 39123 Iraqi civilians have been ‘liberated’ since March 2003.”

A Timedoor visitor, Eric, offered this:

“I'm a big XTC fan—because their craft is truly exquisite. That does not, however, make them astute political scientists or philosophers. Perhaps if people had any sense of perspective, they would identify today's President Kill as Iran's President Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of an entire nation, Israel. Or the former President of Iraq, Saddam, who killed about 10,000 of his own people every year, apart from the million of his soldiers who died in his wars. Bush is pretty small potatoes compared to those two, don't you think? Bush's unintentional collaterol killings count more than Saddam's murder and torture of his political enemies? Gimme a break. Then again, a sense of perspective is simply not fashionable these days.”

I take Eric's comments seriously. Upon reflection, I see that I should have clarified the connection I see between the song and the President. Below I present the lyrics (in bold) with my commentary. I don't know if I'm going to change Eric's mind, but at least I know I will have explained more clearly why the song can be connected to President Bush.

Also, I have to say, Andy Partridge may not be an “astute political scientist,” but, as a gifted musician and clever lyricist, he has crafted a song which is elastic enough to be applied to almost any controversial leader who has waged war with a shaky rationale. In the book XTC Song Stories, Partridge says the song is “about our powerlessness over governments' ability to kill.”

Lyrics to “Here Comes President Kill Again” by XTC

Here comes President Kill again,
Surrounded by all of his killing men.
Telling us who, why, where and when,
President Kill wants killing again.

The first line of the song calls to mind Bush's 2004 reelection.

Listening to this verse, I can't help but think of the Bush push to invade Iraq and the highly massaged evidence used to justify the invasion. Read a February 2004 CBS News article titled “The Man Who Knew: Ex-Powell Aide Says Saddam-Weapons Threat Was Overstated” here.

The ultimate inspiration for the invasion of Iraq came from a group called the Project for a New American Century. They lobbied Clinton to invade Iraq, but he didn't bite, preferring instead to simply bomb the country now and again as part of a “war of attrition.” The group's 1998 letter to Clinton was signed by numerous G-Dub playas, including Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.

If you read the mission statement on the home page of the Project's site, it is not difficult to see the statement as a rationale for American imperialism:

“The Project for the New American Century is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle. The Project for the New American Century intends, through issue briefs, research papers, advocacy journalism, conferences, and seminars, to explain what American world leadership entails. It will also strive to rally support for a vigorous and principled policy of American international involvement and to stimulate useful public debate on foreign and defense policy and America's role in the world.”

As we know now, the invasion of Iraq was sold to the American people by claiming Saddam Hussein was involved with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that he was developing weapons of mass destruction that would pose a direct threat to the United States.

Hooray, ring out the bells,
King Conscience is dead.
Hooray, now back in your cells,
We've President Kill instead.

The “back in your cells” line resonates with the unlawful detention of “enemy combatants” at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Plus, who can forget Abu Ghraib? Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh contextualizes the unforgettably horrific photos in this 2004 New Yorker piece.

Here comes President Kill again.
Broadcasting from his killing den.
Dressed in pounds and dollars and yen,
President Kill wants killing again.

The satirical Billionaires for Bush site slyly makes the point that moneyed men benefit greatly from having G-Dub in office.

Some of those moneyed men run Halliburton. According to a March 2003 Alternet article, Dick Cheney “served as chief executive of Halliburton until he stepped down to become George W. Bush's running mate in the 2000 presidential race. Today he still draws compensation of up to a million dollars a year from the company, although his spokesperson denies that the White House helped the company win the contract.” The article, titled, “Halliburton Makes a Killing on Iraq War,” can be read here.

Hooray, hang out the flags,
Queen Caring is dead.
Hooray, we'll stack body bags,
For President Kill instead.

Yes, body bags will be stacked and coffins loaded into planes but G-Dub, his hawks and the mainstream media don't want you to see them. Take a trip down the Memory Hole to see those who have perished in Iraq.

Ain't democracy wonderful?
Them Russians can't win!
Ain't democracy wonderful?
Lets us vote someone like that in.

The reference to Russia grounds the song in the Cold War Eighties. The subsequent lines bring to mind the voting irregularities in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s stirred the pot on Ohio with a lighting rod piece for Rolling Stone titled “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”

Here comes President Kill again,
From pure White House to Number 10.
Taking lives with a smoking pen,
President Kill wants killing again.

Bush's “smoking pen” was flourished behind closed doors. According to a 2003 Washington Post article titled, “U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past: Opponents of War Wonder When, How Policy Was Set,” Bush, in early 2002, “secretly signed an intelligence order, expanding on a previous presidential finding, that directed the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president.” Read the article here.

Hooray, everything's great,
Now President Kill is dead.
Hooray, I'll bet you can't wait,
To vote for President Kill instead…

When listening to “Here Comes President Kill Again,” I don't think it is a stretch to ruminate on a man who is arguably the most hawkish President in our nation's history. As Commander-in-Chief, Bush is responsible for the deaths of over 2500 U.S. soldiers and over 39,000 Iraqi civilians.

Eric urged “a sense of perspective,” comparing Bush to Saddam Hussein and Iran's President Ahmadinejad. I don't doubt that Eric, or I, or anyone, could apply the “President Kill” lyrics to them as well.

Eric directly compares Bush and the Iraqi civilian body count to Iraq's former President. Saddam Hussein, Eric writes, “killed about 10,000 of his own people every year, apart from the million of his soldiers who died in his wars. Bush is pretty small potatoes compared to those two, don't you think?” When I hear statements like this, as a trained Holocaust educator, I cringe a bit. One of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's teaching guidelines is to avoid comparisons of pain:

“A study of the Holocaust should always highlight the different policies the Nazi regime carried out against various groups of people; however, these distinctions should not be presented as a basis for comparison of suffering between them. In addition, one cannot presume that the horror created by the Nazis was any greater than that experienced by victims of other genocides; the true horror of the Holocaust lies not in numbers, but in policies of hatred and genocide carried out in a widespread, bureaucratic fashion.”

One cannot presume that the horror created by Saddam Hussein during his regime is any greater than the horror Iraqi citizens have been experiencing since 2003.

Bonus Song

XTC's other principal singer/lyricist Colin Moulding is also not a big fan of war. “War Dance” is a song from 1992's Nonsuch, the last album before the band's seven-year lost weekend. It was originally inspired by the Falkland Islands situation in the early Eighties. It was not committed to tape until Desert Storm fever moved Moulding to dig it up for the Nonsuch sessions.

[Thanks to dOn (Enik)]



XTC: "Science Friction" 7" - $7,050.00

Here's a case of "rarity" gone all wrong. XTC's 1977 debut single, "Science Friction"/"She's So Square," was withdrawn in favor of a more marketable gimmick: a three-track 12" with a 3D sleeve called 3DEP. Setting aside the band's irksome smirking (and Andy Partridge's ass in white pants), this single wasn't deleted for any shocking or secret reason. It just didn't look to make as much money, or draw as many curious eyes in the smaller 7" racks. If both were around, buyers would obviously go for the cheaper 7". Profit margins. End of story.

Unlike Soft Boys troubador Robyn Hitchcock, XTC never had that semi-detached romanticism ("Flesh Number One" = Heaven). They never seemed to say "Yes, our polished songcraft can be overbearingly assured, but we don't take it that seriously." Not that it's a requirement, it's just that when your lyrics are so often so self-deprecating, you can't lay them over theory-rooted, refined pop without begging questions of duality (e.g. you're too smart to be this dumb). By the time you get to the mid-'80s "Dear God" era, the academic cauldron is overflowing with fatuous ivory-tower couplets and self-righteous Puritanism. Of course in 1977 this wasn't an issue—they had an electric accordion player for Christ's sake. Not exactly "Respectable Street." At the outset, XTC were just another precious, elitist "Punk's for yobs" student band. I mean look at his ass. What is that?

The problem gets worse when these artists get older, and mock their youthful bravado. Why should anyone invest anything in these songs if the people who wrote them are on record blushing at how bad they are, all but disavowing them?

"'Science Friction' is just ploddy, a snapshot of you with spots and a haircut like Dave Hill's."—Andy Partridge in Record Collector, February 1999.

Calling out your own insufferable insecurity only confirms your harshest critics' barbs, and confuses your fanbase. Let the music speak for itself, Andy.

Whoever our seller is, he's been trying to get £5,000 for this single for over a year. XTC fans have been chuckling about him since the auction first appeared in late 2004, and will probably continue to for some time, though the recent drop to £4,000 edges us ever-closer to affordability.

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

23 January 2021