Reviews: XTC: Oranges & Lemons


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XTC - Oranges and Lemons (1989)

After Andy Partridge suffered a traumatic mental breakdown in the early 80's, XTC decided to pull the plug on touring and confined themselves to nothing but studio work. Similar to when The Beatles stopped playing concerts and holed up in the studios, this gave XTC room, time, and energy to concentrate on taking their music in new and interesting places. Mummer, the last of the early-sounding XTC records, was followed up by the clearly 'in-transition' The Big Express in 1984. When the transformation to studio band was complete, Skylarking was the result, and although the egos of Andy Partridge and the album's producer Todd Rundgren clashed often and made the making of the album an unhappy experience for both parties, it's often creative strife that produces some fantastic records, and Skylarking was XTC approaching a peak of near-perfect pop music.

All of this leads us to Oranges and Lemons, XTC's farewell to the 80's, and certainly the most commercial piece of work the band has ever produced. It's the only album to feature singles that charted in the United States, and instantly made them a popular act on an MTV audience that was still hungry for new alternative rock and pop music (you remember, when they played videos?). It was also easily the most Beatlesque album XTC has ever done, relying on vocal harmonies and some experimental sounds that a drugged out Beatles or The Who could have turned out during the latter part of the 60's. Even the exceptional cover sleeve (that I believe is one of the greatest pieces of album cover art of all-time) harkens back to the era, both Yellow Submarine and A Quick One at the same time.

"Garden of Earthly Delights", opener and tribute to Andy Partridge's newborn son is a smattering of feelgood 60's mixed with exquisite Arabian sounds and some very complicated drum machine patterns mixed in with real drumming. It's a song that's both very simple to stand back and listen to while at the same time a complex wall of sound if you want to listen deeply. Basically, it recalls the psychedelic 60's, and it sets the tone for the entire album. The follow-up track, "Mayor of Simpleton", was one of the XTC singles to breakthrough Stateside. It's a Byrds-ish love song that just happens to feature one of Colin Moulding's best bass lines, intricately hidden within the (pardon the pun) apparently simple tune.

Another single release, "The Loving", is a mash up of early stadium rock (with faux cheering crowd in the background) colliding with The Supremes. The result is a strange success... then again, these sort of mash-ups are what XTC have always excelled at. Another standout is the loose sequel to the opening track, "Hold Me My Daddy", which seems pretty gutsy considering everyone writes positive songs about their mother but very rarely about their fathers. Although it's mostly light-hearted in nature, lines from the chorus "Hold me my daddy, I forgot to say I love you." can be pretty heavy.

The album clocks in at just barely over an hour, and if there's one complaint, it's that an album that's essentially the 80's rose tinted view of the 60's shouldn't be this long. One or two tracks could have been sliced off and no one would have been the wiser. "Pink Thing", a song that is (no joke) about Andy Partridge's love of his own penis, or the somewhat plodding "Merely A Man" could have been axed and it wouldn't have hurt the flow of the album. Still, "Pink Thing" is saved because it's so ridiculous and flippant in nature, and "Merely A Man" features guitars that amazingly emulate ZZ Top, which is the last thing you would expect out of XTC, so even the lesser tracks have good qualities about them.

If you're only going to download one XTC track in your life, you couldn't do any worse than the finale to Oranges and Lemons, "Chalkhills and Children". Featuring some of the best lyrics Mr. Partridge has ever written, a truthful account of how unfashionable it is to still be a 'rock star' when you're in your late thirties approaching forty and having children and trying to live a normal life... all set to the backdrop of some melancholic music that sounds like The Beach Boys filtered through a jazz club. Insane levels of genius, and a fitting close to Oranges and Lemons, another piece of the difficult jigsaw puzzle that is XTC.


The Green Page
circa 2000


Oranges and Lemons ***
1989 Virgin

1989. Après la la réalisation de 'Skylarking' qui a plutôt bien marché, XTC présente "Oranges and Lemons". Cet album est le plus ambitieux qu'ils aient réalisé jusque là. Certains le considèrent comme le "Sgt Pepper" du groupe. Pourquoi pas. Le son est énorme, les guitares font dziiingg dziiing un peu partout, les choeurs se superposent ou se répondent et les mélodies s'accrochent là, dans la tête, pour un bon moment. Andy Partridge développe une écriture des plus intelligentes ("The Mayor Of Simpleton") et avoue nettement son ambition sur "The Loving", pastiche de  "All You Need Is Love" très convaincant. Attention quand même à ce petit côté élégiaque qui se répand tout au long du disque...

Cosmicben's Record Reviews
circa 2000
It's all that and a bowl of Count Chocula

* * * 1/2  XTC: Oranges and Lemons (1988)-- At 15 songs, and with nearly every one of them filled with warp-speed vocals, inventive percussion, weirdly intriguing horn parts, and crazy melodies, this is a whole lot of XTC to swallow.  If you can sit through it, it's quite rewarding, but that's a big "if": I'm usually zonked by the fifth track--not only because it's tiring, but because the glossy sheen puts me to sleep ("Here Comes President Kill Again" is clever, but is it really entertaining?).  Still, XTC seems to have taken it upon themselves to prove that they're smarter rockers than anyone else, and what the hell: they are.  Andy Partridge's lyrics are more entertaining and insightful than anyone's this side of Bob Dylan's; the melodies are quirky and addicting; guest drummer Pat Mastoletto is virtuosic, adding something interesting to every track; and there are enough crazy tricks buried in every song (even the boring ones) to keep you interested and guessing for at least a few minutes.  In fact, condensing the whole thing into a short review like this is probably a huge injustice to such a densely packed work of art, but what the hell, it's never stopped me before.  Besides, there are several flaws to this record: for one, in a career of trying to prove their brilliance (and usually succeeding), XTC has never really produced a standard (think "Imagine" or "Like A Rolling Stone"), a song with simplicity, soul, raw honesty, and timeless melody--namely, the things that make great music great.  As it is, XTC are just the hardest-working men in the recording studio, showing up most other artists as uncreative lazyasses, but falling short of creating anything truly transcendent (although the beautiful closer "Chalkhills and Children" comes closer than any other XTC song I've heard).   That doesn't stop "The Mayor of Simpleton" from being one of the most genuinely catchy songs ever written (if only Partridge had dumbed down the lyrics, it would have been huge), or the rest of the record from being an exhausting, intriguing load of fun, but there are plenty of less inventive, more rewarding albums out there that will probably end up meaning significantly more to you.
Reviews Review
Oranges and Lemons? The cryptically citric choice of album title nods to both the much-loved childhood nursery rhyme and the vivid sonic textures of late 1960s' pop, the "marmalade skies" pigmentations that had increasingly coloured XTC's work since their withdrawal from the live stage in the early 1980s. Appropriately, several of Oranges and Lemons' songs deal with Andy Partridge's newly acquired parental status (the cocktail-shaker jazziness of "Pink Thing" is not only about fatherly pride but a cunning double-entendre about his penis!) as well as wryly addressing the wider failings of the world into which our children are born. Yes, like some sherbety fructose-flavoured lozenge Oranges and Lemons is both bitter and sweet. But it's unquestionably excellent, as witnessed by the Byrds-u-like village-idiot love song "Mayor of Simpleton" and other highlights such as "King for a Day" and "Poor Skeleton Steps Out". From the Eastern mystique, serpentine guitars and "Ob La Di Ob La Da"-style chorus of "Garden of Earthly Delights" (conceivably what John, Paul, George and Ringo would have sounded like if they'd hung around a little longer with the Maharishi in Rishikesh) to the dreamy, green-field tourist-brochure panoramas of "Chalkhills and Children" (Brian Wilson drifting over the Wiltshire countryside in a hang-glider). 1989's Oranges and Lemons is a fantastic record; a lucid, technicolour sprawl of modernised Beatleisms and airbrushed psych-pop confectionary. Commercially, it was such a shame Tears for Fears had exactly the same idea at exactly the same time. --Kevin Maidment

© 1996-2003,, Inc. and its affiliates



Oranges & Lemons (Gold Disc)

Artist / Band:  XTC
Record Label:  Geffen Goldline
Release Date:  February 28, 1989
Producer:  Paul Fox; XTC

Our Review:
Using a 60s Milton Glaser-type cover illustration, this purported to be a retro album. In reality it was another extremely fine XTC album, their ninth in a series of classy, offbeat pop exercises from the musically fertile brain of Andy Partridge, who hated touring and loved to stay at home as a reclusive pop star. This is probably their best album and features Partridges most complete and satisfying song. The Loving and The Mayor Of Simpleton are both excellent compositions, but they pale against the exceptional Chalkhills And Children. On this, Partridge celebrates that his home (the nearby chalkhills) and children keep him sane and well-grounded against the possible excesses to which he would succumb as a touring popster.

Copyright © 1997 E! Online, Inc. All rights reserved.

Relix Magazine: Issue 24-04 -- July/August - 1997


Reviews of Reissues and Previously Unreleased Recordings by Mick Skidmore


Mobile Fidelity continues its reputation for excellence with three great new releases: Ten Years After's Sssh/Cricklewood Green, The Velvet Underground & Nico's self-titled album and XTC's Oranges & Lemons.

The Ten Years After disc pairs two of the band's strongest studio efforts. The Sssh album, which dates from 1969 . . . Even better is Cricklewood Green from 1970, which is the band's most cohesive studio effort.

XTC was an artful and intelligent pop/rock band that, despite a fair amount of success, never got its just rewards. Like the Kinks, XTC was always a little out of synch with the rest of the rock world. Nonetheless, the band created some genuinely superior pop/rock, and Mobile Fidelity has reissued 1989's Oranges & Lemons in its Ultradisc II gold series. The slightly psychedelic pop of "Garden Of Earthy Delights," "The Mayor Of Simpleton" and the brilliant "Miniature Sun" still sound as refreshing and original as they ever did. This album simply sparkles with vitality on this pristine sounding disc.

The Velvet Underground & Nico's self-titled first album also benefits from Mobile Fidelity's fine re-mastering. . .

©Copyright Relix LLC 2000-2001.

Melody Maker


I MAY be the mayor of Simpleton but I know one thing and that's I Love You”. It's a wonderfully effervescent single, a slice of the finest bubble-pop amid the general clamminess of Simon Mayo's breakfast show. Andy Partridge has a neat dig at the critics who have always labelled XTC to clever by half and comes up with an Eighties version of Sam Cooke's “Wonderful World”. “Mayor Of Simpleton” is a masterwork of, uh, simplicity.

Which ought to bode well for a refreshingly light LP, yes? No. If “Mayor” is Angel Delight then most of this LP — a sprawling double which could easily have been trimmed to a single — is one of those unappetising yoghurts you find for half price in Sainsbury's at five 30; kiwi fruit and cauliflower, mango and anchovy. There's simply too much going on most of the time. Take “Poor Skeleton Steps Out” — once you're past the awful title there's a glockenspiel, slowed down voices, a hoover being switched on, girlie backing and a whistling solo all married to the slightest of tunes and underpinned by Partridge's sneering drawl. At the end of the song a backing voice pipes up with “Better watch out, here comes bony boy” and it's reminiscent of nothing more than Bill Oddie's “hilarious” songs in “The Goodies”. “Garden Of Earthly Delights” is equally lumpen, “Across This Antheap” and “Pink Thing” quirky and tiresome. Quirky! Come the New Wave revival, XTC will clean up.

Maybe I'm too harsh, “Oranges And Lemons” does include a handful of great pop songs. All three Colin Moulding songs are splendid: “Merely A Man” is cut from the same froth as “Mayor Of Simpleton”, and includes the very same trumpet as “Penny Lane”. “The Loving” is Andy Partridge's best song, though conversely it is a distant cousin to Peter Frampton's “Show Me The Way”, with wah-wah overload and crowd screams (for XTC? Must have been “Razzmatazz”).

For a group whose career highlights are “Love On A Farmboy's Wages” becoming a Radio 2 favourite and Peter Glaze singing “Making Plans For Nigel” on “Crackerjack”, “Oranges And Lemons” is suitably electric. At its best it sounds like a Seventies reading of Sixties pop. Todd Rundgren's influence obviously went further than producing “Skylarking”. But as a double, it allows for too much mediocrity and silliness, meandering tunes and unnecessary techno plonks. Not enough simplicity. “Oranges And Lemons” is too clever by half.


[Thanks to Darren Keeping]

New Music Scene

Oranges And Lemons
Geffen Records

Well, I don't know how to tell the weight of the sun/And I don't know how many pounds make up a ton/Of all the Grammy Awards XTC has never won/For crafting catchy pop tunes like "Mayor of Simpleton"/From their new LP Oranges and Lemons, which is quite a lot of fun/And of the great rock critics (and needlesss to say, poets), I am not one/but I can pick out a great album when I hear one...

(-not neccesarily "Mayor of Simpleton"
from XTC's Oranges and Lemons LP)

After 11 years, 10 superb LP's (each a masterpiece in its own right), and 5 years since they have quit touring, one would think that XTCer's Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory would be figuring out ways to bow out of the world of pop-music making gracefully. Never has an XTC album gone gold in America, and to to the flippant pop public in England, the guys are too old, too ugly, too strange for some, yet too damn normal (compared to the rest of the UK music scene, that is!) for others, making them a living entry in the "where are they now?" file for most of their potential audience.

But no, things seldom work the way you assume they would when dealing with the never-never world of pop music. XTC has been labelled "the next big thing" by the US music industry, partially due to the success of the controversial agnostic anthem "Dear God," from "Skylarking," the band's last "proper" LP (which preceded "Psonic Psunspot," a psychedelic pspoof the band did under the pseudonym of "The Dukes of the Stratosphear").

Oddly enough, the song that put XTC "on the map" in the US wasn't supposed to be included on "Skylarking" at all. "God" was originally intended to be only a B-Side before popular demand put the cut on the re-released US version of Skylarking. With the release of Oranges and Lemons, and with any luck, XTC's label-mates Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians and Guns N' Roses aren't going to be the only Geffen bands at the top of the US Pop Albums chart.

Spotting "Oranges and Lemons" at your local record store (even if its the supermarket-sized Tower), shouldn't pose a problem. The "Yellow Submarine"-esque cover-art and dayglow oranges and lemons make it jump out away from the stacks of Bon Jovi and Poison LP's, much like the obscene "Disraeli Gears" cover-art parody on the 1985 Dukes of the Stratosphear EP, "25 O'Clock." Picking out "Oranges and Lemons" on the radio is even easier. The splendid superfluous melodies and wonderfully verbose lyrical wordplay makes an XTC track played on the radio stick out like a Rembrandt displayed at a Grade School art show.

Despite its title, first single "The Mayor of Simpleton," may actually suffer from its all-too-clever wordplay, as Top-40 programmers are oft afraid to scare off the Clearasil set. This provides an ironic affirmation of Andy Partridge's assertion that "I don't know how to write a big hit song/But I know one thing, and that's I love you," as he pretends to be an idiot savant of love. The LP's second single, the Colin Moulding-penned "King for a Day," which has been touted as a hit on the level of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," is a 1980's pure pop classic (if there is such a thing). Of the two, "King For A Day" seems more likely to play "kingmaker" for the band on US contemporary-hit radio, due to its familliar sound.

The Dukes of the Stratosphear influence has crept its way into influencing more than just the cover-art, however. Tracks such as "Pink Thing" and album opener "The Garden of Earthly Delights" continue to wallow in the psychedelic trappings of the Dukes' recent projects, while being produced for the 80's, unlike the period-piece production of the Dukes recordings. Nevertheless, "The Garden..." is punctuated by the same loony kitchen sink of sound effects used by The Dukes.

Beatles influences and a longing to return to simpler times abound in Partridge's "The Loving" and "One of the Millions," in which Moulding bemoans "I'm not akin to this eighties thing/Where you look out for number one, before succumbing to the cross-choruses of "I won't rock the boat/He's always saying what he's gonna do." Both songs sound like the timeless pop classics that few since the Fab Four have perfected.

Family relationships are expounded upon with a keen eye for detail (Partridge and Moulding are both fathers) on "Hold Me, My Daddy," and "Chalkhills and Children," while lyrical nods to "The Wizard of Oz" abound throughout the album. Authority is given a dressing down on the aforementioned "Mayor...," "King...," and "Here Comes President Kill Again," which echoes "Living Through Another Cuba" from 1980's excellent "Black Sea" collection. Partridge takes the "bulldog on a fence'' approach again in describing England's place in the Cold War, singing about the sad state of watching people who have no alternative other than to elect a war-monger president accepting it as a social norm, as voting becomes a mindless joy to partake in, with the citizens gladly "voting for President Kill again." Quite an odd way to win over American hearts, but not a surprising one, given XTC's history.

So, after 11 years of blending irrepresible wit with keen pop sensibility, XTC is finally set to ascend to their rightful place at the top of the US Pop charts, MTV's heavy rotation, and AOR stations nationwide. If you want to experience the "next big thing," go out and get this LP or CD A.S.A.P.

As Andy Partridge equates each album with a color ("White Music,""Black Sea," etc.), one question I would love to ask Andy is; "How does Gold and Platinum suit you?"
--Doug Mash

Sonics Magazine
August 1989

XTC, Oranges and Lemons, Virgin

Double LPs don't have to be a waste of vinyl. Exile on main street, Sign o' the times, London calling, Songs in the key of life and Something/Anything are examples of groups and artists at the peak of their powers, relishing the opportunities to stretch out.

And here's another. The soundscape behind the tunes is magnificently rich; basses bubble and coo, horns appear out of nowhere, eastern-tinged guitars segue into god-knows-what. There are even rhythmic idea rather than endless grooves. To list all the examples would take most of the day, but on "Cynical Days", for instance, a muted trumpet invokes the spirit of Miles Davis over a tune that resembles classic-period Ray Davies.

That's the trick really. For all the inventiveness of the backing, the tunes are uncluttered gems of the pop craft. "Mayor of Simpleton", "The Loving" and "Merely a man" all demonstrate that you don't have to hammer a melody into submission to make it catchy.

As with 1987's Skylarking, comparisons can be drawn with psychedelic-era Beatles (By the way, did you know Andy Partridge got FIVE copies of Mark Lewishon's book on the Beatles Abbey Road years for Christmas!), but there are just as many references to the Kinks or Beach Boys if you look for them.

There is also a pervasive Englishness to the mood, a place of lazy sunny afternoons in verdant fields. And of Village Green Preservation Societies, of course.

Los Angeles Times
by Steve Jochman

Oranges and Lemons Brightens XTC Leader Partridge

Andy Partridge, the leader of the English band XTC, pulled a bottle of herbal anti-stress pills out of his pocket.


Partridge's stage fright has kept the band from performing since 1982. Would the problem extend to into interviews too? After all when Partridge, who leads a cocooned existence at home in Swindon, England, did rounds of interviews for the band's 1987 album Skylarking, he seemed uptight.

On his mind at the time were his contentious relationship with Todd Rundgren, who produced the album, and the Bible Belt reactions to his controversial atheistic anthem "Dear God."

But as Partridge settled on a sofa in an office at the David Geffen Co. complex in Hollywood, the singer-songwriter-guitarist was anything but gun-shy, or any kind of shy.

That should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard XTC's latest album, Oranges and Lemons, a 15-track package full of bright, clever and often Beatlesque songs that are as colorful as the title and the Peter Max-like cover art. The album falls somewhere between the pastoral pastels of Skylarking and the tributes to psychedelia that XTC has done under the name the Dukes of Stratosphear.

And a good portion of the double album's 15 songs elaborate on what Partridge - the principal writer in a trio that also includes bassist-songwriter Colin Moulding and guitarist Dave Gregory - stated in "Dear God.

Likewise, in the interview, rather than soften or back off from what he started two years ago, Partridge barged straight ahead. He has no regrets that "Dear God" stirred up controversy, in the process drawing the most widespread attention of anything the band had released in its 10-year history. Rather, he felt sorry the that the song wasn't more disturbing to the Christian faithful.

"I'd like to go back to the religious theme full-blown sometime in the future when people have forgotten the hoo-ha of 'Dear God' - or the attempt of 'Dear God'," the 35-year old Partridge says. "it's such an enormous thing, it's impossible to do in 3 1/2 minutes."

New songs like "Merely a Man" (in which Partridge places the Wizard of Oz on a par with Jesus and Buddha) delineate Partridge's belief that religion is a "man-made subject". Partridge seems to relish the fact that while many in the pop world are earnestly seeking the meaning of life, he is intent on saying there is no great meaning in life.

"Christians are like filmgoers," he said. "They're like people who go to magic shows. Human beings want to believe in God, flying saucers, ghosts, or the 'I Ching'. They want Buddha, they want splatter movies, they want anything they can believe in, that's going to be their magic. They wouldn't be humans if they didn't have a burning desire for magic...

"What's my magic? I think it's kind of unraveling all this stuff myself. My magic is getting rid of the magic and getting through the magic to embrace the nothing other than have fun before you die, because you don't get a chance when you do die."

Partridge says that there is another kind of magic in his life: parenthood. He and his wife have a 3-year old girl and a 1 1/2-year old boy. That inspiration is as prominent on the album as his feelings about religion.

"I get into it in a big way," he said of being a father. "Even if I'm not so active, I"m a good mountain for them to climb on - a very interesting angular mountain. They can stand on my face, one of those dads."

Most important, he said, parenthood has helped him put his career in perspective.

"It's humbled me about this music thing. When you make kids, making music or making anything else goes way down the ladder...I've Frankensteined some life up. After that, writing more songs is sort of a jolly little hobby."

[Thanks to Amanda Owens]

High Fidelity
June 1989

XTC: Oranges & Lemons
Paul Fox, prod. Geffen 24218-2.(2). Cassette

It's possible for XTC's new double-LP/single-CD extravaganza to charm you into thinking it's a lightheartedly benign bauble. The components of the disc's well-crafted and pleasurable surface—the Beatlesque constructs (late-period division), the pure pop force of the melodic hooks and harmonic resolutions, the way the group's basic guitars-bass-drums configuration is extended and augmented with an eye (or an ear) to maximum playfulness—all conspire to elicit a smiling response. They also tend to obscure the fact that the group's songwriters, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, are often in a bad mood. Moulding's three songs are especially bugged: He has eyeballed the Thatcherite/Reaganite landscape and decided that the operative word is “cold.”

Partridge gets 12 shots and so displays a wider range of moods, though for most of the disc, self-righteous but not off-the-mark sermonettes (“Here Comes President Kill Again,” “Scarecrow People”) alternate with laissez-faire humanism urging us toward as much tolerance as we can bear (“Garden of Earthly Delights,” “The Loving”). There might seem to be a conflict here—mixing the proper note of disdain with the proper note of forbearance—but it's a contradiction that comes with the territory, falling squarely in the Lennonist tradition of the misanthrope who rises imperfectly above his natural predilection and espouses universal love. Partridge's confusion of feeling seems like another homage to the Sixties.

Although the White Album-style licks are clever and affecting, the best songs here are the ones that break rank with the overall concept: “Hold Me My Daddy,” a primal plea that Partridge's always uneasy voice fits like a glove; “Pink Thing,” a funny paean to onanism done in the style of recent Talking Heads; and “Miniature Sun,” a jazzy curveball resembling the Beach Boys playing fusion, a kind of            

greg allenXTC: Dave Gregory, Partridge, Moulding

number that's becoming an XTC staple. Besides, the group has paid its respects to the great lost decade in more rewarding fashion elsewhere, and those listeners attracted to the idea are directed to the CD called Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, which combines the EP 25 O'Clock and the LP Psonic Psunspot made by the boys' alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear. Safe behind the ducal guise (and a protective layer of irony), Partridge and Moulding are encouraged to loosen up musically and lyrically, spoofing hippie clichés and happily cluttering their music with tacky organ, sitar, and God knows what. It's a blissfully self-indulgent effort that finds them temporarily slipping free of their tendency to think the worst of people while hoping for the best.Richard C. Walls

[Thanks to Bill Wikstrom]

Issue #127, May 1989
Rock Short Takes

Oranges and Lemons


It's only natural to be suspicious when an act as self-consciously clever as XTC delivers such an engaging tribute to the bliss of ignorance as "The Mayor of Simpleton". Don't think the band disingenuous, though; deep down, this album is as heartfelt a celebration of simple melody as XTC will ever make. That's not to say the lads don't indulge themselves occasionally - "Here Comes President Kill Again", for instance, is packed with stupid political puns - but from "Scarecrow People" to "Garden of Earthly Delights", "Oranges and Lemons" is sheer idiot glee. - J. D. Considine

[Thanks to David Oh]

Tower Records' Pulse!
April 1989
by Brent Milano

By now you've doubtlessly read stacks of raves on XTC's new double album, Oranges and Lemons. Here's some more: This is simply a record that we can't imagine anyone not liking, unless you've got a real problem with brilliant songwriting, personal-yet-universal lyrics, great singing and nifty guitar sounds. XTC can absorb '60s tricks as well as anyone — who else writes convincing peace-and-love songs in this cynical year? — but it doesn't stop there. There weren't many '60s bands who worked tributes to King Sunny Ade and Ladysmith Black Mambazo into a straightahead pop song, as XTC does on “Hold Me My Daddy.” Side two is the best (especially “Poor Skeleton Steps Out”), but there's nary a dull spot among these 60-odd minutes — and this ain't bandwagon-jumping, since we were nearly as ecstatic over 1986's Skylarking.

[Thanks to John Relph]

The Western Front
April 21, 1989
By Jeremy Meyer
staff reporter


After each album from so-called cult bands from early 80s, such as R.E.M., The Replacements or XTC, critics, fans and cynics always say, "this latest album is the one to make them superstars."

To longtime fans this means one thing -- sell out.

But with some bands who are intelligent enough to handle success, breaking into extreme popularity may not spell doom to their creativity. XTC is one of those rare bands. Even though the band's latest album, Oranges and Lemons, has enough hits to keep it hovering in Billboard's top 10 for several weeks, don't expect its songs to be converted into Pepsi commercials.

Oranges and Lemons will undoubtedly boost the band's public appeal, simply because it's chockful o' hits. Band leader Andy Partridge and his bass-playing buddy, Colin Moulding, know how to write a pop song similar to the Fab Four. They combine humor, infectious melodies and radiant harmonies, making them one of the most creative bands currently existing on this planet.

Oranges and Lemons showcases the band's abilities with songs that will satify the rocker, the popster or the burned-out Beatle fanatic.

The album begins with a psychedelic rave-up, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," sounding peculiarly similar to the band's parttime, pseudo-group, "The Dukes of Stratosphere," [sic] a semi-comical band the group poses as. Partridge, a recent father, says to his kid, "This is your life, and you'll do what you want to do. Just don't hurt no one, unless, of course, they ask you to."

The next song, "The Mayor of Simpleton," the first single off the album, is a radio programmer pleaser. The lyrics proclaim the love for someone, even though the singer may just be an Average Joe. The song's highlights are Partridge and Moulding's silky harmonies.

The album's focus is domestic, as members of the band have settled down from their frenetic punk days and have sprouted families and suburban lifestyles in their native town of Swindon, England.

The album's songs contain odes to children and fathers, warnings about psychotic presidents and, of course, love songs.

Songs such as "Merely a Man," showcase Partridge urging the band and listener to reach "Higher," as Penny Lanesque's trumpets complement the driving guitar groove.

Oranges and Lemons is distinctly different from the band's 1986 album, Skylarking, which was a technically smooth, flowing album, but lacked the punch of the new one. XTC chose Todd Rundgren to produce Skylarking. Rundgren, a pop music wizard, clashed personalities with Partridge, producing an album which lacked the typical XTC manic-groove.

For Oranges and Lemons, the band linked up with Paul Fox, a producer who has recorded hits for Boy George. Fox was less restrictive than Rundgren, letting the band's creativity take over in the studio.

If you've heard the album and are waiting to see the songs live, expect to wait a long time. Partridge likes touring about as much as Alaska likes Exxon. In 1982, when the band opened for the Police, Partridge had a nervous breakdown and decided to retire from touring.

Recorded music will be the closest the band's ever-increasing audience will come to XTC.

Don't expect a sell-out either, because the band members are too busy creating intoxicating pop songs and playing with their kids to appear alongside Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in beer commercials.

[Thanks to James Isakson]

Hi Fi News and Record Review
March 1989
p. 103

(60m 52s)

This is possibly the best recorded album XTC have made and that's saying something. All fifteen tracks are rich sound pictures painted with traditional and technological instruments. You know that every track is XTC but the diversity of arrangements and melodies is such that you never get bored. The musicianship is superb and the production is exciting, if occasionally a little cluttered. The sixties influences get stronger with every album but the results are timeless. Why people shy away from this band's music I don't know. Perhaps they think they are a discordant post-punk band. Well anyone who hears Colin Moulding's stunning ‘King For A Day’ or Andy Partridge's dreamy ‘Chalk Hills And Children’ or the Dave Gregory penned mock-baroque trumpet solo in ‘Merely A Man’ will know that is not the case.

If you don't buy another album all year, buy this one. The vinyl version is worth getting as it is two short, well cut discs. The CD is just one disc of over an hour. [A:1]

Neville Farmer

[Thanks to Darren Keeping]

March 20, 1989

- Pop
Oranges & Lemons
Virgin - VDL-2581-W
Radio has finally gotten behind the brilliant first single, Mayor Of Simpleton, which is, by far, the strongest song on this double album. King For A Day looks like the only choice for a second release. From start to finish, this LP is full of Andy Partridge's idiosyncratic songs, true to the form XTC has established over the past decade. Unfortunately, this sold record breaks no new ground which might elevate them from the presently secure cult status. - Chris Murray

[Thanks to Kenn Scott]

Chicago Tribune
Thursday, March 16, 1989
Home Entertainment
by Chris Heim

XTC Oranges and Lemons (Geffen) * * *

It is hard to resist once again comparing XTC to the Beatles when their ninth and newest album has a cover that resembles an outtake from Yellow Submarine. But it is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that this latest work most closely resembles. Like that Beatle classic, Oranges and Lemons is a riot of musical colors-from the Arabic modalities of "Garden Of Earthly Delights" and the surprising Afro-pop coda of the nakedly emotional "Hold Me My Daddy," to the delicate reverie of "Chalkhills and Children," which pays homage to the Beach Boys. Andy Partridge provides the album's sweet "oranges" with their '60s-styled "all you need is love" bouquet, while Colin Moulding's Lennonesque "lemons" bear the more acrid aroma of these "Cynical Days." Taken together, XTC's latest crop offers a refreshingly tart and wondrously rich harvest of intelligent and challenging pop.

[Thanks to David Crosby]

Toronto Star
“Pop Reviews”, page D17
March 17, 1989
by Greg Quill

□ XTC Oranges and Lemons (Virgin): It's unlikely British pop auteur Andy Partridge and his longtime sidekick Colin Moulding could ever create music that was less than fascinating. Whatever styles they embrace — from simple acoustic pop through rhythm 'n' blues to even the psychedelic pomp of their alter egos, The Dukes Of Stratosphear — Partridge and Moulding produce music that is innovative, quirky, cheeky and challenging.

Oranges And Lemons, produced in Los Angeles by a relatively unknown Paul Fox, is a bold and generous album that ranges over four sides through hard rock to jazzy pop, from brutal political and religious satire to gentle, brittle declarations of love.

Partridge himself calls these particular songs nursery rhymes, and given their explosive spontaneity, perhaps he's right. His lyrics, though, are as clever and cutting as ever, complex and often hilarious commentary on the ironies of the human condition.

— GQ

[Thanks to Kenn Scott]

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