Reviews: XTC: Mummer
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May 18, 2001
Album Reviews

This progressive pop band's sixth album was also their first after guitarist Andy Partridge suffered a double mental breakdown, the trauma of which provides some moments of real inspiration. Remastered here, complete with the six additional tracks which were added for the album's mid 80's CD relaunch, Mummer offers a collection of meticulous pop tunes. Stand out moments include the gentle strumming rural melodies of Love On A Farmboy's Wages, the syncopated euphoria of Great Fire and the MOR-ish US pop of Lady Bird.

Issue #64, February 1984
Record Reviews

XTC Mummer (Epic)

In their crusade to make the entire musical world safe for pop, XTC's new album must be counted as a major conquest. Taking off from their last foray, English Settlement, XTC here take on even more potentially arcane musical themes and production techniques and beat them into accessibility. The result is a lot more than the whacked-out art-pop which usually pigeonholes the band. By now their empire embraces art-funk-rock-jazz-reggae-tribal-British traditional-pop-folk and psychedelia, all mixed into a completely unselfconscious brew.

On their first four albums, XTC's big trick was to make odd music that never seemed willfully so. Instead of coming off as weird-for-weird's sake, they made their hyper-quirkiness seem like a committed life philosophy. Their nervous little hooks came like rabbits out of hats-unexpected and magical. On English Settlement, they used a greater variety of instruments and smarter production techniques to shake things up even more. Colin Moulding switched to a jazzy, fretless bass, Terry Chambers (since departed) picked up primitive African and British traditional percussion and Andy Partridge employed a sharp acoustic guitar-given special up-front prominence by the 3-D production tricks of Hugh Padgham.

On the new LP (produced by Steve Nye) the sound has less separation but each instrument still retains its own voice in the joyful clutter There's a distinct sax honking in the background of "Great Fire", along with some tongue-in-cheek strings. In "Human Alchemy" there's a reggae guitar and "art-rock voices-from-heaven tossed in with new technology" drones. The fun part is, you never know what you're going to hear next. "Deliver Us From The Elements" begins with cartoonish boinging springs, picks up some Mellotron along the way and culminates in a windstorm of sound distortion that is, in its own way, catchy. "Ladybird" is the sneakiest and most surprisingly memorable jazz-pop concoction this side of Steely Dan's hits. "Love On A Farmboy's Wages", with its lovely acoustic guitar, may be XTC's prettiest hook ever And in "Funk Pop A Roll" there's the sputtering guitar and full drum kit of their earlier days.

Today, XTC are making more "progressive" music than ever with nary an ounce of unworthy pretension. For them, the future is wide open. - Jim Farber

[Thanks to David Oh]


In late 1983 Elvis Costello did a blindfold test . . .

XTC: "Love On A Farmboy's Wages"

(Laughs) "Wonderful - XTC. I like the band because they always do the opposite of what you expect. XTC is a lesson in real English cleverness. The boys are so clever and smart that the press have great problems with them. I don't like everything on their albums, but you can find some absolute jewels. I think "Great Fire" and this song are fantastic. I also love the sound of their acoustic guitars."

[Thanks to Franz Fuchs]

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