Reviews: XTC: Nonsuch

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XTC - Nonsuch (1992)

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Hoy les dejo un discaso que hacia mucho no escuchaba y del que volví a caer es sus redes. Se trata del décimo disco de XTC llamado "Nonsuch". Disco que salió en Abril de 1992 por Virgin Records y que produjo Gus Dubgeon. De ésta placa se cortaron los singles: The Disappointed, Wrapped In Grey y la maravillosa The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead. En el disco colaboraron enormes bestias como Gus Dudgeon, su productor, quién ha trabajado con The Zombies, The Moody Blues, Tom Jones y sobre todo ha trabajado con Elton John. También est´ el gran trompetista Guy Barker, que ha trabajado con Mike Oldfield y Frank Sinatra. Es un discaso completísimo y sin desperdicio alguno, con momentos gloriosos como Humble Daisy, Omnibus, Hully up on Poppy y Books Are Burning, donde las guitarras son alucinantes. La influencia Beatles que tanto aman, se nota, y cómo...Y pensar que esta banda alguna vez se escondió tras el nombre de The Dukes Of Stratosphear. Todo excelente, desde que empieza hasta que termina. Que lo disfruten!

Waiting For Louise
Michaels Favoriten von 1992

XTC: "Nonsuch" (Virgin, Mai 1992)
Nonsuch ist das letzte einer langen Reihe excellenter Alben die von dieser Band um die beiden Songschreiber Andy Partridge (Gitarre) und Colin Moulding (Bass) und ihren Leadgitarristen Dave Gregory bei Virgin veröffentlicht wurde. Mit "Peter Pumkinhead" gab's sogar nochmal einen kleineren Hit. Am Schlagzeug sass diesemal Dave Mattacks von Fairport Convention. Produziert hatte der Altmeister Gus Dudgeon (Elton John, Joan Armatrading, etc.)

10 September 1996

By Gjermund Higraff

Nonsuch (1992)

After the excellent Skylarking and the more uneven Oranges and Lemons, people expected XTC to make their masterpiece when they went into the studio to record their new album. They came close. The reason they failed was the amount of songs; 17, 11 or 12 and XTC would have had the record everyone wanted from them.

Starting off, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, covered later by Crash Test Dummies. All that's different are the vocals. Then there are the usual XTC numbers; tuneful pop songs with some jazzy chords thrown in. Of these, Then She Appeared is the best one, perhaps even one of the best XTC songs ever. There are a few slower numbers in major key, with the signature of Andy Partridge written all over them. One of the most central tracks is Rook, with a piano playing and some strings and horns coming along on the way. Just the music makes this song sad, but with the lyrics it's almost unbearable. The song concerns death and the meaning of life, and Partridge had to rerecord the vocals a large number of times, because his voice cracked.

Together with Rook, Wrapped in Grey is the most beatiful song on this album. Starting off slow and sad, it lights up on the chorus with the sun shining through. The subject is Carpe Diem, just on a more lifelong basis. Ending it all is Books are Burning, and listening to this one you know we're talking about the aftermath of the Rushdie death sentence.

XTC have been silent since this was release early in 1992, but as they're now released from their contract with Virgin, they have a lot of material ready for recording. Let's hope it brings them another step up, both musically and in sales.

L'Avîntguárd is a copyrighted publication of Els Zefençadéirs del Päts Talossán, Prachelion, T.S.O.

Dirty Linen
February 1, 1993


Geffen Records

With probably the most unassuming opening strum on any contemporary popular recording (does the sound of someone knocking over an electric guitar send shivers down your spine?) and a spirited shout from Andy Partridge of "Let's Begin." Nonsuch thunders and swoops across the playing field. The leadoff track is "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead," and despite the random MTV rotation spots and the sly winks of college DJs, the song has commercial clout. Possessing a darting harmonica lick and snappy snare drum beat (performed quite nicely by legendary Fairport Convention drummer, Dave Mattacks) the melody typifies the quintessence of XTC: shifting guitar hooks, uncanny remarkable snippets of The Hollies, Beatles, Pink Floyd impersonations, and a witty grasp of lyrical whimsies. There's never a dull moment as XTC studiously explores jazz-fusion ("That Wave"), folk-rock ("Then She Appeared"), soundtrack muzak ("Bungalow"), cowboy punk ("Crocodile"), psychedelic-power swirl ("Humble Daisy"), and classical sad ballad ("Rook"). Dave Gregory is one of the greatest subtle guitarists around. For a taste of his exquisite leads, check out the sounds on "My Bird Performs" and "War Dance." Produced by Gus Dudgeon, Nonsuch rolls along like a finely-tuned double-decker bus loaded with a cast of characters from a Monty Python movie. For those who like their songs with a dash of ingenuity and perky burlesque, XTC's new release is certain to please.

T.J. McGrath (Fairfield, CT)

© 1993 Dirty Linen Ltd.

Issue #25, October 1, 1992
by Gregory Chance

I love XTC. Maybe I found them late-only when Drums and Wires came out-but even that was over twelve years ago. A long time to listen to one band. Maybe too long.

I knew something had gone wrong starting with "Dukes of Stratosfear" (which I loved) to the Skylarking record (which I also loved)--when the band claimed they hated it because of the producer--and culminating with Oranges and Lemons. That one really bothered me, mostly because of the faux-production by Paul Fox. It seemed as if he'd never listened to the band, as if he went back and decided which song reminded him of a previous one, then mimicked the English production, adding a pop sheen. (Who is this guy? Look at the decent semi-alternative bands this man has alienated from their fans with his horrid glitz: Robyn Hitchcock, the Sugarcubes... Stop him before he does the next Pixies or Sonic Youth record).

I guess the problem really is with the band. Nonsuch is a terrible record. I've tried to like it, but I can't bear it. Andy Partridge's formerly brilliant lyrical twists give way to the embarassment of forced puns. Maybe he still has fun extending his metaphors into entire allegorical songs, but the process has turned formulaic. Colin Moulding's songs have reached new nadirs of unlistenability. One, about a bungalow by the sea, has the sonic earmarks of soap opera. All this is presented wrapped in papier-maché guitar tones.

Through the horror of hating a record I wanted to love, I've found good things. There are real drum tracks here, provided by none other than Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, etc.), after twenty-five years still one of rock's steadiest drummers. The very digital pop production of Gus Dudgeon doesn't really affect the songs adversely (I believe the band is more at fault -- the demos I've heard, mostly provided as B-sides to the singles, sound virtually the same as the record). There are a couple of songs ("Omnibus," "Then She Appeared") that would have been nice as Dukes' songs, replete with full-on psychedelic production. There are a couple ("That Wave," "The Ugly Underneath") that could have been as good as anything from Mummer, but somehow didn't make it. The hit songs (read: radio push) are nearly the wretchedest ("Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead," "The Disappointed").

A good friend and even bigger XTC fan pointed out to me real instruments being played (piano, even), interesting tones ("listen to that, it sounds like an old seventies synthesizer"), and how great Dave Gregory's guitar playing is. (Well, it is.) He believes this record is as good as Mummer or The Big Express.

I don't buy it. These guys need a strong kick in the rear. Maybe a tour would do it (they haven't played live in over ten years). Something's got to give before I get into another new XTC album.

Copyright © 1992 Puncture
[Thanks to Benjamin Gott]

Stereo Review
July 1992

XTC - Nonsuch (Geffen)
Performance: Odd
Recording: Good

There's a fine line between the charmingly eccentric and the just plain weird. In “Nonsuch,” XTC tromps all over both sides of the boundary. When Andy Partridge or Colin Moulding — the two writers — keep at least one foot on the ground, their hyperimaginative songs can be one-of-a-kind gems. Partridge's Dear Madam Barnum, for example, is about a circus clown who suspects he's being two-timed by Ms. Barnum: “If I'm not the sole fool / Who pulls his trousers down / Then Dear Madam Barnum / I resign as clown.” And even the overindulgent allusion or the numbingly naive insight is often redeemed by its springy, theatrical soundtrack. XTC hasn't broken new ground this time around, but its peculiar pleasures are still there for the taking.

[Thanks to James Hartman]

Issue #165, July 1992
Record Reviews



Most bands that make it to their fifteenth birthday have an excellent idea whether they're ever going to succeed or not. Typically, XTC is the exception. Their previous album was their highest-charting in nearly a decade. A mere three years later-you can't say they rush things - here comes Nonsuch. Could this be XTC's breakthrough?

Like the preceding Oranges & Lemons, Nonsuch is a dense hour of music: 17 songs, and with guitar solos you can count on one hand. The new album, though, has better digested the '60s influences that made Oranges & Lemons sound confusingly close to XTC's pseudo-psychedelic alter ego, the Dukes of Stratosphear. Not that Andy Partridge still wouldn't like to have recorded the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile, and at times he attempts to do that here.

The solidly constructed songs put across the often felicitous word play with shifting guitar/keyboard textures, catchy phrases and medium tempos. Thematically Partridge's compositions deal with love, politics and the human comedy; since for Partridge the personal is political, the most intriguing results come from blurring these topical boundaries. "Humble Daisy" wafts pastoral imagery toward pacifist ends before shifting into apostrophic romantic sentiment ("I'll lay upon you until somebody else will"). The perky "Omnibus" playfully eulogizes women of all colors - some of them real - a paean to universal love. But Partridge's tour de force here must be "Rook"; with impressionistic piano block chords and yearning, dreamy lyric, it is simply an art song.

This is no "background" album, though one could conceivably dance to it. "I believe the printed word is more than sacred", Partridge avows in "Books Are Burning", undoubtedly inspired by Salman Rushdie. Nonsuch makes clear his own allegiance to art, verbal and musical. XTC's fans always knew that, but it's nice to have confirmation from the source - even if it means waiting a few years between albums. - Scott Isler

[Thanks to David Oh]


Mit 'Nonsuch' posieren die Wave-Ikonen XTC als die King Crimson der 90er Jahre - im wahrsten Sinne Wortes eine reife Leistung.

M. Inhoffen

Kronto Reviews
May 1992
by Leo Breebaart

XTC - Nonesuch [sic] (1992)
Virgin CDV 2699
63:26 min, 17 tracks
Produced by: Gus Dudgeon

As many real fans turned away (some even in disgust) from XTC when they came out with the poppy, psychedelic retro album "Oranges & Lemons", they very quickly became one of my favourite bands. (This happens to me all the time. Sometimes I get the feeling that as soon as I start to like any band, no matter how respected they may be, than *that* will be the moment that long-time fans start to turn away muttering stuff about 'commercial' and 'sell-out' under their breath. And when I actually begin buying CD's you can be assured that the band is truly history as far as the critics are concerned. But I digress.)

"Oranges and Lemons" still is one of my favourite heavy-rotation CD's, and inquiries on the net quickly led me to XTC's alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear (thanks, people!), in the same style, and very good as well. I also tried some of the older XTC stuff (Lord knows there is enough of that around) but I have yet to find anything I like even remotely as much. Anyway, my expectations for the new XTC album were sky high, and luckily I have not been disappointed.

"Nonesuch" [sic] contains over sixty minutes of beautifully crafted pop songs that delight the ear with their sound and entertain the mind with their funny, sharp lyrics. Producer Gus Dudgeon (David Bowie, Elton John) has brought his characteristically clean production to the album and I think the cooperation has been a fruitful one.

The album is both a continuation of the direction XTC went in with "Oranges and Lemons", and a departure. On the one hand there are still many sixties' influences in the music, and the general idea of writing melodic popsongs has been successfully extended. On the the other hand the psychedelica is completely gone, and with it the slightly frantic, over-the-top wall-of-sound approach. This album is much more subtle, some might even say a bit more sterile -- you can clearly hear that this is a *studio* album.

The main artists that I am reminded of are the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, and XTC themselves. Beach Boys because of the harmonies, the bells and the tambourines. Burt Bacharach because of the piano's, the strings and their arrangements (very chamber-music like, i.e. viola's and cello's, not entire symphonic orchestra's). XTC because of the songwriting, the lyrics, and the vocals. All three influences come beautifully together in the best song of the album: the majestic 'Wrapped In Grey'. Perhaps a bit too bombastic for some, but my absolute favourite. A truly touching song.

Other highlights of the album are the first single 'The Disappointed', the *extremely* Steely Dan reminiscent 'The Smartest Monkeys', the simplistic 'Rook' and the poppy 'Dear Madam Barnum'. Most other songs are almost equally good, with the possible exception of 'War Dance' and 'The Ugly Underneath' the only two weaker brothers I can find after many repeated listenings.

Lyrically, XTC have once again done an excellent job. 'The Smartest Monkeys' makes essentially the same point as Phil Collins does in one of his recent hits. But compare the simple sarcasm and wordplay of

Well man created the cardboard box to sleep in it
And man converted the newspaper to a blanket
Well you have to agree he's come a long way
Since swinging about in the trees
We're the smartest monkeys

to the blindingly serious, dull, heavy-handedness in the lyrics of Phil's 'Another Day in Paradise'...

XTC is known for being a bit of an 'arty' group, but they are never so arty that they lose their sense of humour. 'Omnibus' is the funniest 'sexist' song since Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer'; it tells all about the joys of womanhood as seen from the man's point of view (shades of California Girls here, i.e. again the Beach Boys; but can somebody explain me the title?) as follows:

Ain't nothing in the world like a white skinned girl
Make your Union Jack and make your flag unfurl

The second and third verses similarly extol the virtues of black and gold skinned girls, and than at the end they neatly take their song to the inescapable climax:

Ain't nothing in the world like a green skinned girl
But that don't mean to say you can't look...

I really love this kind of word play, and only wish more bands would take the trouble to construct their songs so carefully. But apart from the fun and games there is of course a more serious side to XTC as well. 'Books are burning' is a moving anthem against censorship:

I believe the printed word should be forgiven
Doesn't matter what it said
Wisdom hotline from the dead back to the living
Key to the larder for your heart and your head
The church of matches
Anoints in ignorance with gasoline

And my favourite lyric of them all is the one to 'The Disappointed', a tragi-comic song of *extreme* self-pity, which uses images that I find completely irresistible:

The Disappointed
All shuffle round in circles
Their placards look the same
With a picture and a name
Of the ones who broke their hearts

The Disappointed
All congregate at my house
Their voices sob with grief
That they want me to be chief
Of the tribe with broken hearts.

I'll stop quoting now, though there is lots more material worth repeating here. But I don't know if it comes across without the music, and this review is long enough already. In any case: I unreservedly recommend this album to everyone who likes clever pop, with the proviso that if you only enjoyed the 'old' XTC then this album will probably not be much to your liking either.

As a final note let me clear up something that may have been confusing folks not familiar with how the album *looks*. You may have seen it called "Nonesvch" [sic], or seen the first single of it referred to as 'The Difappointed'. This is caused by XTC's decision to give the album a medieval look. The cover picture is a detail from a 1611 map of Surrey, and on the back each song is represented by a piece of that period's typical clip art. And since all the text is supposed to look like Early Modern English as well, the 'u's become 'v's, and an 's' within a word turns into that interesting 'f'-like thingy. But since I don't think it is XTC's intention that we should suddenly all start calling the producer "Gvs Dvdgeon" (as it is spelled on the album), I think it is safe to say that the album's title is simply: "Nonesuch" [sic].

[Thanks to Leo Breebaart]

May 23, 1992

Virgin - CDV 2699-Q
The album's title means unsurpassable, and when it comes to the first single. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, they're not too far wrong. The lead track is a great, punchy power pop song that lets XTC main man Andy Partridge wail away on harmonica. Unfortunately, the rest of the album can't match the lofty standards set by the single. As all XTC albums are (they've made 10 plus two rarities and B-sides collections), this one is full of well produced, carefully crafted pop songs. Like the previous album, Oranges And Lemons, this one will draw a lot of Beatles comparisons, though Partridge admits to borrowing things from other groups as well. A lot of these songs would fit in well on a variety of radio formats if given the chance. Dear Madam Barnum and The Disappointed stand out, as does the CD cover which has Nonsuch castle painted on the actual jewel box. Though this is a thoroughly British band, their fan club in inexplicably headquartered in Barrie, Ont. (CD reviewed)-Steve McLean

[Thanks to Kenn Scott]

May 22, 1992
CD Reviews
by Lord Mustapha X. Feinberg


I believe the reason that British pop band XTC is still fairly obscure in America after 15 years is because they're relentlessly uncool. That is, uncool in a flashy, trend-of-the-minute, American way.

Perhaps XTC's inability or unwillingness to jump on the fashion bandwagon at any point during their career accounts for the fact that their albums, going as far back as 1979's Drums and Wires, sound as fresh today as they did when they were originally released. Fresh, if not necessarily cool.

XTC has bestowed upon an indifferent marketplace yet another catchy collection of original pop recordings, called Nonsuch (Geffen), their 10th album of new material. It's typical XTC: after three playings, I was singing along; after four, the various tunes were replaying incessantly in my head.

Along with its unremitting catchiness, the disc is typical in another respect: the songs are all over the map both in style and sentiment. Clanging rockers like "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and "Crocodile" lie alongside somber ballads like "Humble Daisy" and "Wrapped in Grey." Check out the neopsychedelia of "That Wave" (psychedelia bubbles under the surface of the entire album) or the loopy theatrics of "Bungalow."

Lyrically, songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding manage to be euphorically optimistic and stridently cynical, in turns. They make up for occasionally toppling polemical straw men by sharing their giddiness about life and love and love lost. (Giddy about love lost? Only XTC could get away with a first-person lament by a cuckolded circus clown, as in the peppy "Dear Madame Barnum.")

If you can forget about how unfashionable XTC's retro pop is (I have often thought that if the '60s had never happened, Andy Partridge would have had to become a poet), this 17-song, hour-long collection offers extraordinary pleasures.

Number 10, May 16 1992
by Edwin Ammerlaan


'Alarmingly straight.' And Andy Partridge goes on. On Nonsuch XTC is 'within about two inches of The Brotherhood Of Man.' Joker. Nothing is as it seems, even if Andy Partridge says so. Certainly not if Andy Partridge says so! The songs on XTC's tenth album seem simple, lightweight, melodic. But in this simplicity lies XTC's strength as collective and Partridges' skill as songwriter.

Simplicity that can also tip the scales to superficiality, like the current single The Disappointed proves. It's the only commercial kneefall on Nonsuch. In the other sixteen songs the group goes it's own way and puts the listener regularly on the wrong foot. She does this in fact with the same combination of intellect and undercooled homour we see with Crowded House, REM or David Byrne. Knife-sharp lyrics, masterly compositions, packed in almost ingenious arrangements with the help of three decennia pop-history.

The references are empathically present. They vary from The Beatles (with emphasis on the voice and compositions of McCartney in amongst others Holly Up On Poppy) to The Beach Boys, while The Smartest Monkeys is to describe like an afternoon 'Joe Jackson meets 10CC.' This obstinate mix is brought with such a disarming drive that even the biggest sourpuss will give a lurch. Partridge against the sourpusses; XTC is completely back.

[Transcribed by and thanks to André de Koning]

On The Street


     This is one of XTC's most likeable, instantly listenable albums, up there with English Settlement and the criminally ignored Oranges and Lemons for great, eccentric, English pop. If you've only heard the single The Disappointed, you might be misled - it's one of the clumsiest songs on the album. Better by far is the whimsical Holly Up On Poppy, a song about Andy Partridge's small daughter riding on her rocking horse. Its classic hurdy-gurdy sounds are typical XTC, and although it's a bit gushy, it's good to see male rock stars writing about important things like children for a change. Lyrically, there are the usual concerns with England (Colin Moulding's whimsical Bungalow) and Andy Partridge throws in the usual make-love-not-war sentiments. There is the occasional piece of brilliance (The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead) and even the odd track that sounds like a McCartney throwaway (Then She Appeared). Triple Jay have picked this album up, and rightly so. XTC take the old chorus-verse-chorus game into more places that most bands dream about, and they are proving themselves to be one of the most reliable bands to have emerged in the last fifteen years - whoever is looking after quality control in the XTC camp deserves a medal.

[Thanks to Graeme Wong See]

April 1992

XTC: Nigel is now sorted …
(Virgin Records CDV 2699)

The fiery core of XTC's elaborate pop has gradually chilled over their past few albums, as songwriter Andy Partridge's pre-occupation with the social and intellectual decay of the '80s and '80s has hardened under the Beatley structures and Beach Boys harmonies of his songs like a particularly pervasive permafrost.

Nonsuch is arguably XTC's darkest album yet, whether taking a direct course to the target—as in ‘Wardance’, an almost funky tirade against jingoism—or spinning typically uncomfortable word webs around their objective, such as you'll hear on their hymn to meathead sexual politics, ‘Omnibus’.

Long-time fans of the Swindon combo will initially find Nonsuch rather one-dimensional in comparison with their last album—and career masterpiece—Oranges and Lemons, and there's more than a little muddled filler-material here (‘That Wave’, ‘Then She Appeared’).

At its best, though, this is an album precisely of its time. ‘Bungalow’ (a sad reflection on seaside retirement built brilliantly around cinema organ) and ‘Rook’ (as powerful a picture of alienation verging on madness as, say, Patti Smith's ‘Land’) very much chart the mental and physical landscape of the current recession.

Though XTC's detractors will continue to label them clever for cleverness's sake, a quirky New Wave joke curling fast at the corners, I'd like to hear one or two of the currently-favoured guitar bands shoe-gaze their way into this sort of cerebral territory. (8) Martin Townsend

[Thanks to Graeme Wong See]

April 1992

S o u n d  E f f e c t s

sara jane tyson
Warmer than Oranges & Lemons, yet still very Beatlesque, XTC's latest outing is a collection of dreamy, up-tempo pop songs. Acoustic instrumentation woven together with rocking guitar to produce a sweet, yet biting mix. XTC hasn't lost its edge. “Peter Pumpin Head” takes the stuffing out of modern religion while “Wardance” warns of the dangers of jingoism. Happy arrangements, paired with sobering observations, make a listen to Nonsuch akin to a skip through Oz, except the yellow brick road is studded with nails. Beautiful.

[Thanks to Ricardo Juarez]

The Columbus Dispatch
Tuesday April 28th 1992
The Arts (section 8E)

Eclectic XTC
14-year-old British band refuses to be pinned down

By Bill Eichenberger
Dispatch music critic

What is an XTC? There's no easy answer. At first, XTC was an aggressive new-wave band. Then it was a quirky pop band.

In its 14 years, XTC has concocted dissonant rock'n'roll and quiet, pas-un-dance music, Beatles-esque pop and, as the offshoot Dukes of Stratosphear, Rutles-esque cover tunes.

"Well, yes, I suppose we've been a mess of contradiction," guitar, vocalist and founding member Andy Partridge said recently from his home in Swindon, England. "And that's made for some messy albums.

"But what are you going to do? Play one fuzzy guitar and a drum kit with all that Phil Collins ambiance for an entire career? We didn't want to Ramones ourselves out of existence."

Besides, Partridge said, it makes sense to illustrate a range of emotions, to employ an entire palette of musical colors.

"Why paint with only one in only one color? What painter starts out by saying 'I'm only going to paint in brown'?"

"We like it messy, like one morning you're laughing your socks off and, before you know it, you're miserable by midafternoon."

Similarly, XTC -- Partridge, Colin Moulding (bass, vocals) and Dave Gregory (guitar, keyboards) -- has refused to follow the rules of the rock'n'roll business.

When Partridge tired of touring in 1982 ceasing touring -- period.

A Geffen Records publicist recently joked that he almost had to hold a gun to Partridge's head to get him to agree to newspaper interviews to promote the group's new album, Nonsuch.

Partridge avoids spotlights. He also avoids fashions and fads. It's If he's told rock'n'rollers should write about booze and bimbos, he's more likely to record ‘Pink Thing’, ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ or ‘Holly Up on Poppy’, songs about or for his daughter.

"Certainly there are things expected of you if you are a member of the rock'n'roll-slash-show business -- all these people forcing themselves to be stupid for entertainment. But don't these groups ever grow up?" Partridge wondered.

"OK, so the guitar is supposed to be loud. And you're supposed to flip a finger at the whole world. That fine from about the time you're 13 until you're in your 20s.

"But...if you're still doing it in your late 30s, you're well on your way to becoming the president of the United States."

Growing up is not synonymous, though, with growing soft.

XTC caused a stir on 1986's Skylarking album with ‘Dear God’ (an open letter challenging God to get to on the ball). Nonsuch maintains that high level of cynicism and sarcasm; witness ‘The Smartest Monkeys’ or the defiant ‘Books are Burning’.

The sarcasm and vitriol on Nonsuch are balanced, however, by XTC's willingness to wallow in joy, as on its odes to women (‘Omnibus’) and daisys (‘Humble Daisy’), or sweet-natured ‘My Bird Performs’, which Moulding describes as "a happy-with-my-lot song."

Soaring melodies help on ‘Holly Up on Poppy’ and ‘Then She Appeared’. A typically infectious hook carries ‘The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead’ to top heights. The Beatles and Beach Boys are omnipresent, although Partridge thinks comparisons can be misleading.

"I was playing the chords to ‘I Get Around’ and borrowed them for ‘Books Are Burning’, though they're not in the same key. Then I put a brand new melody on it.

"So these point or reference come up in my songs. I don't look to the past for inspiration... It's more like the Beatles and the Beach Boys went in my head head at an early age and I'm just now learning how deeply.

"Writing these songs is more exercising the beast than it is trying to copy anything. It's an attempt to kill off the Ray Davies inside me and the Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I'd like to kill off the Burt Bacharach with a blunt instrument."

Originality is overrated, Partridge said.

"There is no way you can be an original human being. What you do is pull your soul out and find this long piece of string knotted together.

"And each tiny piece goes toward making up the sum total of your influences. the originality, if you want to call it that, is in how you unravel your piece of string."

Unfortunately, silly people are often an impediment to unraveling that string. The working title of ‘Holly Up on Poppy’ was ‘Holly High on’ Poppy.

"It's a song about my daughter riding her rocking horse, Poppy," he said. "But I knew it would be changed into a drug song if I didn't change it. Too bad, since high is much more accurate than up. She's a little girl and was very high on that horse."

Partridge is prepared for nay misguided criticism of ‘Omnibus’, his song praising women.

"I love women in every way, shape and form. If that's sexist, then nail me up. I worship at the church of women. The world would be a better place if it were just women and me."

Although XTC has covered considerable ground in 14 years, Partridge can foresee another project or two along the lines of the Dukes of Stratosphear.

"We won't call it the Dukes. But I'd love to do a beat album, a glitter album and especially a bubble-gum album, something that would cause instant tooth rot. That would be fun."

[Thanks to William H. Stoner III]

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