Mark's Record Reviews

Rich Bunnell Presents XTC - Mark's Record Reviews

This is pop! Yeah yeah!

Sometimes it seems that no one has heard of these guys and yet somehow everyone's heard of them at the same time. Loads of bands and singers from They Might Be Giants to Sarah McLachlan to Crash Test Dummies to Paula Cole to...err...the Verve Pipe have been influenced by them, their reputation with music critics is absolutely phenomenal, and they've been releasing albums for over 20 years now, and unlike most of their contemporaries (*COUGH*U2*COUGH*) they've managed to grow with each release instead of burn out! However, mainstream audiences have blacklisted them on both sides of the Atlantic (especially America) for the following reasons:

  1. The vocals are hard to get used to at times and don't go well with poppy, empty mainstream tunes. In other words, they don't sound like the Backstreet Boys. Oh, no. I'm so sad. You mean I don't get to hear an Andy Partridge rendition of "Quit Playing Games With My Heart"?!?
  2. To quote Stephen Thomas Erlewine from the All Music Guide, XTC is "constantly out of step with the times." Their music is accessible, but each album that they release is pretty much in a style that mainstream music doesn't reflect at the time, such as a clanky, raucous album in 1980 when synthpop was beginning to dominate, a layered concept album in 1986, when overproduced pop music was dominant, and a regal, political album in 1992, when grunge and gangsta rap were catching on.
  3. They don't tour. Or at least they haven't since 1982.

One last point before I shut up and get to the friggin' reviews. XTC is dominated by two songwriters, the dominant one being Andy Partridge, pretty much the leader of the band, who writes 75% of XTC's material. Partridge doesn't experiment too much but his batting average is generally higher than the other half of the duo. Usually more experimental is Colin Moulding, who writes the other quarter of the band's work, contributing 3 or 4 songs to each album. The general consensus among XTC fans is that a Moulding song is either a masterpiece or an experimental failure. Sorta like David Bowie's songs. Nah, just kidding. Bowie rocks. On with the reviews!

Reader Comments
If the best you can say about XTC is that they "don't sound like the Backstreet Boys", then that's a sad commentary on XTC. Actually, I'm no authority on XTC, only owning Upsy Daisy, but from what I can tell they're pop band that produces fairly disposable, inconsequential ditties. In other words, I'm listening them today to give them a chance (after reading your reviews), but I could easily go without hearing them again (ever). Jingly, jangly GAR-BAGE!

Which is what prompts me to write you about this group: Are the rating systems employed on this site simply comparisons of one album to another by the same group? If not, then it's a crime to give any XTC album the same score as any album by important and influential bands like, say, the Beatles, the Clash, the Kinks. Let's have some perspective, guy.

But, of course, you gave Heart and Supertramp high marks, so what do you know? Someone who says a Supertramp album is one of his favorites is just a mindless robot bowing to the corporate music overlords. Sick. (Rich Bunnell)
Ah, the Swiss cheese this argument is.

First off, let me get one thing straight-- I do -NOT- rate Supertramp and Heart on the same plane as other bands. My rating systems list a "10" as a band reaching their full potential, but not necessarily standing up to the releases of other bands. A 10 for those particular two bands is the equivalent of, say, a 7 or so on this page (except for Crime Of The Century by Supertramp, but the fact that I like them to a point is more based on the fact that my parents played them a lot when I was young-- I'd probably despise them had I only heard them at a later age). I reviewed them because I had a slight understanding of each band's work, not because I'm a huge fan-- I don't sit around listening to Heart albums all day or anything; in fact, I haven't listened to one of their albums since I listened to them for the page.

Secondly, you're rating XTC based on one single listen of a hits compilation bashed by Andy Partridge himself? I gave the collection a 9 because it's a good compilation if you're familiar with the material on the albums themselves already, but it's not a good starter! As pompous as the two of them are, Wilson & Alroy have a point in that at least three or more listens to an album are needed to get a full opinion. Also, you just seem to be biased against the bands I truly like just because I reviewed a couple of bands that you hate.

Thirdly, I didn't like XTC on first listen either. I got Waxworks and thought-- "Um...this guy's voice sucks. And these guys can't play music. 'Making Plans For Nigel' is okay, but...well..." Then I got Skylarking and Upsy Daisy and thought-- "Okay, they were a bit more concise in their later period, but....still, what's the fuss all about?" I didn't really get into the band until a full six months after first hearing their material.

Lastly, as much as I admit that the Beatles and the Kinks were more influential than XTC (simply by the fact that they existed first, but also because they were both very excellent bands), the Clash really only made about two albums' worth of truly influential material (guess which two I'm referring to). Note that I'm not saying that every album besides those two albums are bad, but more influenced than influencial. I love Combat Rock despite some fans' objections, but it's not a very influential album; rather, it's more a display of already-done styles.

And who says that "They don't sound like the Backstreet Boys" is the best I can say? I'm just saying that they ain't pop music, they've never really been true pop music, and what is pop music is that manufactured 98 'Syncstreet Britney Boys crap out there at the moment. (Ben Greenstein)
It pleases me to see that the only folks who can really put this band down are those who "are listening to the album right now, and don't like it," without even giving it time to grow on them. I used to hate even Oranges! The best records take some time to grow on you - not that I'm saying that Sgt. Pepper isn't great, but there are defenitely more complex and sophisticated works out there - every XTC album, for example. The guy who posted the comment is obviosly the sort who would buy a Frank Zappa album, and then say "gosh - there's too much to listen to! I hate this guy!" And anyone who thinks that XTC are "too jangly" probably hasn't even bothered to listen to an early REM album.

This is the kind of guy that I call a "critic follower" (stupid name, but keep in mind that I just made it up). He likes bands that the critics like because it makes him feel smarter, and anything that he doesn't see as "influental" is not "retro" enough to help him earn and "intellectual" reputation. He's the type who buys Rolling Stone's "essential album guide," and buys the albums it reccomends, because "critics can't be wrong." These are the kind of people I hate, because they give people like me and Rich and George Starostin and Mark Prindle bad names. He's the kind who likes Dylan because he was popular, not for any good reason. I hate folks like that.

He's right to like the Clash and the Kinks, but is wrong to not even give XTC a full listen. And he's an idiot. The same as those morons who buy into radio crap like Matchbox 20, except that he buys into retro crap, like, I'm assuming, a lot of bands that I don't like. And does he really think that Supertramp is a manufactured group? Dumber than I initially thought, I guess. (Amanda Kenyon)
Now hang on just a cotton-pickin' minute. Sorry to perpetuate the argument, but all of these posts are way too full of bullshit to simply be ignored. Just who the hell do you people think you are? Allow me to respond to each of you individually. Prepare to be offended.

dchetson: You admit that you're not familiar with the band, and yet you still proclaim that they are (and I quote) "GAR-BAGE!"? And then you flat-out tell Rich how stupid he is? If he likes Supertramp and Heart, let him. They're both good, enjoyable bands, and he's entitled to his own damn taste in music. You can hate them all you want, but don't bash other people for having different tastes from your own.

Rich: Don't apologize for your musical tastes. You like what you like, and that's that. You're allowed.

Ben: What the hell is the matter with you? From one post, you've figured out and condemned this guy's entire life? I think not. And you say that he is the kind of person you hate, because he gives people like you and Rich and George and Prindle a "bad name," and that he's "right" to like the Clash and the Kinks but "wrong" to dis XTC. Who the hell proclaimed you the king of the musical universe? I'll repeat myself again and state that people have different musical tastes, and the fact that someone else's happens to be different from yours doesn't make them "wrong" and you "right". Speaking of different musical tastes, I happen to like Matchbox20. Does that make me one of those "morons" who buys into "radio crap"? I also happen to like the Backstreet Boys (*gasp of horror*). Does that make me "wrong"? Keep in mind, however, that my favorite band in the universe is the Moody Blues, and I also love Sting, Pink Floyd, Dave Matthews Band, and countless other bands that you happen to also like. Does that counterbalance my sacrilege and make me "right"? Think about that one.

Everybody feel free to email me to defend yourselves. Somehow I don't think this particular email will be ignored for long.

White Music - Geffen 1978.
* * * *

Truly great bands tend to work up to their eventual greatness, and judging from their debut, XTC don't stray very far from that camp at all. The band burst out of the Swindon punk scene (that's a joke, son, you're supposed to laugh) wearing a jerky, neurotic sound on their sleeves, which would have been really entertaining had they actually written some real... you know, songs to go along with it. Colin's three songs, in particular, resemble little more than quirky ramblings-- "Do What You Do" is basically a musical encapsulation of pointlessness. His only song that comes close to greatness is "Cross Wires," and it's really only worthwhile because it's weird and funny. To top it off, the band stumbles through a near six-minute cover of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" which is so worthless and awkward that it makes the listener glad that the band never attempted a single cover ever again.

Andy is the album's savior, contributing the tight, dynamic punkers "Radios In Motion" and "Into The Atom Age," the rolling "Statue Of Liberty"(which probably would've met some success if the BBC hadn't banned it for the lyric "In my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt"--bunch of uptight, snooty Brits) and the genre-condemning single "This Is Pop," the band's statement of purpose if they have one. But even he stumbles with crap like the dinky, mechanical "I'm Bugged," and even the better songs aren't nearly as great as the ones he'd be penning merely two years later. Buy it to complete your collection, but don't expect to throw it on unless you're weird. Like kids who don't like Life cereal. I don't like Life cereal, AND I don't like this album! Whatcha gonna do about me, eh?

The CD version throws the band's debut EP 3D-EP and a couple of extra bonus tracks right into the middle of the album, which would really irk me if the surrounding material were better. If anything, the bonus tracks make the album worthwhile, since even though you have to put up with crap like Colin's "Dance Band," you get neat rockers like "Science Friction" (the band's first single), "She's So Square" (which sounds awfully well-written for this era of the band) and "Hang On To The Night"(which is kind of generic, but it doesn't suck). If you're buying the CD version, up that grade to a five.

Reader Comments (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
I have been listening to this album more over the past few days (my pre-AV1 XTC retrospective) and the more I listen, the more it like it. I never really cared for this (or Go2 for that matter) when compared to XTC's later work, but perhaps familiarity breeds accessibility or perhaps the years have refined my musical tastebuds. At any rate, I still feel that Barry Andrews exit from the band was the best thing that ever happened to XTC. (Ben Greenstein)
Awful, awful stuff. This is a terrible way for a great band to start their career. Only a few of the songs ("Into The Atom Age," "Statue Of Liberty," "This Is Pop") manage to sound energetic and presentable - the rest of it is ugly, generic new wave. I mean - this is the same kind of stuff that I hate Devo for! The worst of the bunch are, by far, Moulding's tunes, especially "Cross Wires." What do you mean "great song" - it's awful! It's trying so hard to be weird and different that it completely forgets to be listenable in the process!

I really like some of the bonus tracks, though - mainly "Science Friction" and "She's So Square." I'll never, for the life of me, understand why those weren't on here the first time around. I think this deserves lower than a five - a four is a perfectly below-average score. (Rob Treynor)
Yeah, this isn't a great album by any stretch of the imagination. However, listening to their cover of "Watchtower" without subjecting to yourself to the rest of the music on the album - you may see it as I do - a great parody of Dylan & Hendrix. I've always enjoyed this sole cover tune, due to its terrible singing and unbearable length.
What you have to realise is that in its context, i.e., the terrible blandness of mid '70 British mainstream music and the sometimes mindless aggression of Punk, White Music was so far out there - so odd, original and just downright exciting - that it blew away virtually everything else at the time. Just read some of the reviews from that period and you'll realise just how special this album is.

Obviously it's not aged well, but every time I hear the heart-thumping intro to 'Radios In Motion' I'm a 14-year-old kid again who just tapped in to a vein of something vital and incredibly unique.

Except 'All Along the Watchtower' - which was terrible even back then!!

Go 2 - Geffen 1978.
* * * * * *

A step up, though no one else seems to think so. See, the draw for me with this album is that instead of relying on a quirky, wiry nerd-punk vibe with no melodies, the band goes for more of a rockish full-band nerd-punk vibe with some melodies. Colin is improving as a songwriter somewhat, contributing a couple of great tunes in the infectiously-manic rocker "Crowded Room" and the stomping closer "I Am The Audience." Andy is in fine form too, cranking out "Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!)" which is awfully catchy for a song with such an offbeat chorus, and the soaring, atmospheric Brian Eno tribute "Battery Brides." Nutsoid keyboardist Barry Andrews even contributes a couple of tunes, demonstrating a more Cockney, British, crude side of XTC that would never surface again, with "Super-Tuff" and the misinterpreted wife-beating anthem "My Weapon." They're funny tunes, though every fan in the universe seems to hate them.

The band still had a bit of work to do on their overall sound, though-- the music still sounds a bit too quirky for its own good. "Life Is Good In The Greenhouse," in particular, is proof that any song that mentions Mickey Mouse is doomed to utter failure, and "Beatown" and "Red" are exactly the kind of nondescript punkers that every band wishes they never made when looking back at their early period. They even try to do an "I Want You"-esque abrupt ending on the latter, but they forgot that it takes a strong song to make that effect work.

The CD release adds the magnificent single "Are You Receiving Me?" which was released as a teaser single for this album and is a catchy-as-frig all-time XTC classic, oh yes it is. Raise the grade to a 7 if you have that version. Also, the album cover is one of the greatest of all time. "This writing is the DESIGN upon the cover. The DESIGN is to help SELL the record."

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
Nine stars! A classic in every sense of the word. Sure, the tunes are weird and sloppy, and don't sound at all like later XTC, but it's a lot better than the crap on the first album. In fact, if you imagine that this is not XTC, and a completely different but stiff utterly creative band, it sounds near perfect. I love "Battery Brides", "Crowded Room", "Are You Receiving Me?", and "Meccanik Dancing", which my best friend always thought was saying "Picinic Dancing" - as in Yogi Bear. I even like the stupid Barry Andrews songs, though they do seem a bit out of place. (Bougopulos)
Haven't heard the first album, but I found this pretty fun to listen to. I don't think this deserves anything higher than a 7 as "Red" and "Life Is Good in the Greenhouse" are very weak. Also, a few others could have been better developed, such as "Buzzcity Talking", a strong song despite the chorus. Still, I can't resist "Meccanik Dancing," "Beatown" and "Jumping in Gommorah." "Are you Receiving Me" would be up there, but I have a vinyl copy so it's absent from my album. (Richard Liang)
I think this album kind of drags afterwards, but I *LOVE* "Meccanik Dancing"! It's now my favourite early XTC song, replacing "Helicopter". I guess I just love the manic energy.

Not a lot else to say about the album: "Are You Receiving Me" is good; "Life is Good in the Greenhouse" isn't; neither is "Jumping in Gomorrah" (in my opinion). Overall, probably among their weakest albums, if not the weakest. I'll give this one a mediocre 5.

Drums & Wires - Geffen 1979.
* * * * * * * *

Still a bit primitive, but the band's songwriting skills are clearly increasing by leaps and bounds. Deciding that they didn't need no damn keyboardist, the band tossed out Barry Andrews (or he left, I forget) and recruited second guitarist Dave Gregory. The end result is a relatively diffused album relying instrumentally on exactly the "drums and wires" that the title suggests, and the overall mood is very relaxing, in a late-'70s postpunk weirdo sort of way. It also helps that by now the band is finally churning out classics left and right, with Andy delivering typically-solid work with "Helicopter"(which incorporates corny rotor sounds into the beat, producing an almost disco effect) and the jerky "Scissor Man"(later covered by Primus). Colin is the real star in the spotlight, however, all of a sudden getting the band onto the UK charts with the mechanical anti-steel industry single "Making Plans For Nigel"(also later covered by Primus) and breaking new ground for the band in the sunny, cheerful "Ten Feet Tall."

Sadly, not all of the songs are all that and a bag of chips (hopefully sour cream & onion, the potato chip of the gods, if the gods eat potato chips) -- Andy finds new ways of applying the verb "drag" with the anti-car tirade "Roads Girdle The Globe" and the melody-deprived "Millions," and Colin's "That Is The Way," in spite of some neat horn work by hired session men whose names I am not aware of, is a really repetitive and go-nowhere song. It's more than made up for, though, with the inclusion of the speedy, adrenaline-fueled rocker "Outside World" and the creepy "Complicated Game," which starts from a whisper and piles on guitars and bass and drums and electric razors and crap until it finally builds into an impressively-eerie wall of sound. Good stuff, mi hombres.

Bonus tracks this time around? All supoib, as Fat Tony might be so apt to say. Colin's jovial single "Life Begins At The Hop" is further proof that the crap he contributed to the first album has been vindicated, and his "Limelight," though not as great as the Rush song of the same name, follows in a similarly-catchy vein.

Reader Comments
8/10. Great album. Lots of fun. "Making Plans for Nigel"... "Helicopter"... "Complicated Game"... come immediately to mind as my favorites. I remember enjoying this one utterly, but can't seem to find my copy of it. On my way to the CD store as soon as I disconnect... (Ben Greenstein)
Seven stars. I don't like it nearly as much as Go 2, mainly because most of the songs have no energy whatsoever. I'm talking especially about "Nigel", which is okay, but certainly nothing great. "Roads Girdle The Globe" soundes like grinding metal - but is a good way, and I actually like "Millions", but too many other songs are just dull.

One thing - "Reel By Real" is the absolute catchiest song they've ever done - it should have been a single! And the bonus tracks are great, too. (Bougopulos)
I agree with Ben that the energy level is missing, especially since I now have heard Go 2 but I dig the songs anyway. The only one here I don't care for is 'Complicated Game" because it is too out of place. A score of 9.
This was the first XTC record I heard and is still the best. Andy lays down some of his best lyrics and the bridge on tunes like Scissor Man, Reel By Real never loose their interest for me. I went out and bought White Music and Go 2, but this is STILL the place to start to get into XTC.
Wonderful album! A complicated game....8.5/10

Black Sea - Geffen 1980.
* * * * * * * * *

Amazing. This album lacks much of the studio trickery that the last album was held up on, but replaces it with a really condense, well thought-out live studio sound. This is apparent in the loud, clangy opener "Respectable Street," which comes at you with a really loud, messy guitar chord and shouted vocals by Partridge, and, might I add, freaking RULES. Moulding only contributes three songs this time around (one of which is an added B-Side), and all of them are significant in some way -- "Generals And Majors," the catchy first single, "Love At First Sight," which is probably about as complex as such a simple song can get, and "Smokeless Zone," a relentless fast rocker with some weird backing sound going on throughout the entire song -- sorta like "Leave" by R.E.M., only with a more poppy sound instead of a guitar tone. Elsewhere, the songs show quite a bit of stylistic variety, with a slight ska sound in "Burning With Optimism's Flames" and a jerky ode to the simplicity of working for money in "Paper And Iron (Notes And Coins)."

Elsewhere on the album? Well, it has more high points and a couple of flaws. "Towers Of London" backs up the quiet lull of "Somnabulist" with a steady rocker, but "Rocket From A Bottle" doesn't support a very strong melody, and neither does "No Language In Our Lungs," which is an improvement on "Roads Girdle The Globe" from the previous album, but it still somewhat drags. With such a raucous live sound filling the whole album, though, it's hard to wonder who's deranged mind thought up the depressing title "Black Sea," which is mostly uncharacteristic of the album, except for a couple of awesome dark dirges, "The Somnabulist"(a bonus track, but it fits) and the album closer "Travels In Nihilon," a creepy late-night, gothic-medieval march with cannonball drums and a full, wonderful sound courtesy of producer-of-the-day Steve Lillywhite.

I'd have to stamp my official seal of approval upon this product as the single best example of early, chunky-gee-tar XTC super pop whimsy. The album is a VERY good buy, and it's pretty much where to go if you want to see XTC at the height of what some see as their best era. Plus, after this album, they changed their sound and became a bunch of weirdo neo-folkies.

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
I've been forced by the writer of these reviews to add some, since nobody is reading them. Well haha to you Rich =P. Anyway, good album here. The singles are good, the bonus tracks are mostly good(Smokeless Zone), and it flows together well. I think the only gripe I have about it is "Don't Lose Your Temper". There's something about that song that just irritates me, which means it would have made a good radio song. 9/10 (Mark Cybulski)
Here's where the band gets good. This album absolutely rocks. It's very close to being my XTC favorite album, and that means a lot considering Skylarking is such a masterpiece. It's starts off with a roar with "Respectable Street" and just does not let up. It's such a huge leap forward from the clunky, robotic herky jerky Drums and Wires. This album and Skylarking are in such a class above the rest.
This is my favorite XTC album 10/10. Kicks off with "Respectable Street" and "Generals and Majors," two percussive and energetic tracks sending up well-to-do and military types respectively. "Generals and Majors" has a fun whistling chorus or bridge, or whatever the hell you want to call that. There's some kinda of bossa nova, island music thing happening on "Living Through Another Cuba," a song likening late '70s USA/USSR political posturing to the Cuban Missile Crisis of '61. "Paper and Iron (notes and coins)" is fast-paced with great lyrical/percussion syncopation. "Sgt. Rock (is going to help me)" I'm not sure, but I think he's singing about his penis. "Travels in Nihilon" is a long, dark song closing off the album on a decidedly trippy note.

Most CD versions of this release contain three (3!) bonus tracks that weren't on the lp version. As a bonus, these extras are fine tunes but I can understand why they were left off the original package (aside from not being able to fit 14 songs on an lp). The album is actually stronger and flows better without the bonus tracks. Oh why must I complain about getting more?! (Ben Greenstein)
A fine album, and one of my favourites, no matter how cliched it is to say so. Being an idiot, I'd have to say I like the silly Go 2 a bit more, but this one has better individual songs than that rushed, fun chunk 'o vinyl.

"Respectable Street" took some time to grow on me, for some reason. Now, of course, it's one of the best songs ever written, particularly because I have neighbors exactly like that! "Generals And Majors" is pop freshness, with that insanely beautiful soaring guitar line coming in right when you need it. "No Language In Our Lungs" is weird and almost pretty, and I think that "Burning With Optomism's Flames" is a worthwhile sequel to "Reel by Real."

Problems are that I hate "Love At First Sight," a polluted oil spill of a song, and that "Living Though Another Cuba" is sort of obnoxious. I do like the part where he goes "living through another Cu-oo-oo... BA!!!!!!!!!!" - but that's about it. And a couple of the songs don't grab. And it's hard to get used to. But I still give it a nine, because I love the band!
I take aception to your rap on "No Language In Our Lungs" in my opinion this is a smug Beatlesque masterpiece. The guitar work is George Harrison 101. The lyrics are a joy to decypher and analyze. "Burning With Optimisms Flames" is a pop masterpiece and should have gotten the airplay that would have catapulted these reclusive gents to stardom. I have not heard Black Sea for many years, but each track is embedded in my memory. I gotta have a copy of Black Sea. Can you help? (Bougopulos)
I don't like this as much as the last album, based on the original configuration (I don't have the cd reissue yet, sorry). Anyway, it still is great. "No Language In Our Lungs" is a wee bit too much, though, and I wish Andy didn't emphasize every syllable in "Travels In Nihilon" That said though, the latter has probaly the most accurate condemnation in lyrics of youth culture and trends I've ever heard. Right up there with TV Personalities "Part Time Punks." An 8 for the album. (Mike DeFabio)
From what I understand, XTC albums tend to grow on people. So I thought it would be characteristically dumb of me to review this album right after I heard it for the first time. So I'm doing that.

Well, considering that there are four whole songs on here that I don't like, I'd call it disappointing. But there ARE some very good songs on here. Respectable Street, Generals and Majors, Love At First Sight, Towers of London, Paper and Iron, Sgt. Rock, and a couple others are very good. Not GREAT, just very good. And some... some really frustrate me, like Living Through Another Cuba. It's got this really great guitar line that should be going all throughout the song, but it doesn't, and this is why a great portion of the song is bad. Rocket From A Bottle and Burning With Optimism's Flames are only slightly better. The other bad song would be Smokeless Zone. The arrangement is pretty cool, and I like the harmonica and everything, but the melody does zip for me. Zip is a stupid word. Maybe I should have gotten Waxworks or something instead. I'm going to keep trying this band though, because they've definitely got a fantastic album in them somewhere, and it's only a matter of time before I find it. Chips From The Chocolate Fireball wasn't it, 'cause the Dukes were a whole different band. Somewhere there is an XTC album with my name on it. And don't bother hassling me for not getting Skylarking first. I can only imagine how overrated that one must be.

We'll see how long I can go before I come crawling back with a second opinion...

English Settlement - Geffen 1982.
* * * * * * * *

A really neat album, but a disappointment compared to Black Sea....and considering I bought both albums on the same day, that was all the more clear to me. This was XTC's first stab at a double-album (the second coming later on with Oranges & Lemons) and like most double albums (except for London Calling) it suffers from excess. "Leisure" and "Melt The Guns" are almost unbearably draggy and long, "Down In The Cockpit" is a wonderful punchy ska song until Andy repeats the chorus for the 67th time, and "Knuckle Down" is sort of stupid. It has a fine melody but I'm not much of the bouncy, dopey song type.

Why the eight, then, you ask? Why else? The rest of the songs rule! "Senses Working Overtime" has the distinction of being XTC's only Top 10 hit in the UK, and I won't argue with that, though it seems odd to me that it became a hit considering how schizophrenic the song's sound is. Partridge turns in his epic side with "Jason And The Argonauts" and his poetic side with the twinkly, jangly "Snowman," while Moulding sends out more charmers with "English Roundabout," "Fly On The Wall," "Ball And Chain," and "Runaways."

Still, I can't see why in the XTC net universe this one garners so much acclaim. People on the Chalkhills mailing list laud it like it's the band's unquestionable finest album, not a strange thing considering that it's the band's "epic" album and fans always love the epic, personal album despite weak song quality (see: Before These Crowded Streets by the Dave Matthews Band). It's obvious that the band was aiming for a more expansive, acoustic sound than before, but the songs are still too convulted and the production far too thin (Steve Lillywhite really could've helped this one) to help them achieve what they were aiming for. It's actually, at the core, quite a fine album. Really good! That's why it gets an eight! See? Look up there! Go 2 and Drums & Wires both got eights and they both rule! Happy now?

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
I just bought this today, and I've only listened to it all the way once. None of the songs have made me repulse just yet, so it's gotta be an ok album. "Jason and the Argonauts" and "Fly On The Wall" are really good songs that I've listened to a million times over before getting the album. "Runaways" and "No Thugs In Our House" are pretty damn good too. 8/10 (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
Black Sea was my first XTC album, I think I bought it in '82.

I actually like Drums and Wires better than Black Sea (which is admitting to heresy is some circles) and I think that English Settlement is one of their best (if not the best) from their "middle period".

"Leisure" really sucks though.

and yes "Respectable Street" freakin' rules (Mark Cybulski)
6/10. One of my least favorite efforts. I think this album is a major disappointment. It's too long, and while many of the songs are catchy, they simply go nowhere. "Runaways" is a weak opening song because it drags on and on. "No Thugs In Our House" is awesome for the the first 30 seconds, then totally runs out of gas. And as with most XTC albums, the second half somewhat falters. I don't think I've listened to "Knuckle Down," "Leisure" or "Down in the Cockpit" since I first bought this album 10 years ago. The high point - Dave Gregory's (I think) guitar work on "Yacht Dance." Though he doesn't sing, that tune makes you really appreciate the fact that they have him.
A strong 8/10. I find this release has the best contributions by Colin Moulding of any XTC release. His first track "Runaways"is the opener and one of the rare XTC songs where the mood created by the music actually matches the subject matter in the lyrics (both eery with a detatched sadness/regret implied). This mood is offset by the next track - another by Moulding - the ever-perky "Ball and Chain". Later in the package are "Fly on the Wall" and "English Roundabout"... both engaging if not infectious, unlike much of the later Moulding creations/experimentations. English Settlement has some of Andy Partridge's finest moments as well: "Senses Working Overtime" a happy sing-a-long ode to psychedelics; "No Thugs in Our House" a tale of two parents who are clueless to their son's dark side; the disarmament anthem "Melt the guns"; and "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)" about falling out of love/failing to find love in the first place.

Great album. Easily makes the top five in the overall XTC pantheon. (Ben Greenstein)
A low 8. Too many of the songs go on for 5-6 minutes, yet go nowhere - like that middle part in "Jason And The Argonauts" could have been worthwhile, if edited. As for the good songs - it took some time to get used to them, but "No Thugs In Our House" is the band's best rocker (unless you count the sort of slow "Respectable Street") and the two songs you named as "weak" are great! How can you hate that "Knuckle Down"? I, for one, like "Down In The Cockpit" - it's the only XTC song you can dance to. Why'd they even need to do a dance mix? Most of the other songs, though, are either pretty useless or good songs that go on for too long.
Black Sea/ English Settlement. It don't get no better than that. (Richard Liang)
In my opinion, a stunning album. Off-hand, I can't think of too many songs on the album that I don't like. "It's Nearly Africa" is kind of half-way between Black Sea-era XTC and Mummer-era XTC. "Senses Working Overtime", of course, is terrific, and overall the songs just have a nice, intangible feel to them. Probably my favourite XTC album, on a par with Skylarking. (Alfred Schneider)
the middle part of jason and the argonauts that doesn't go anywhere?!?!?!?!jesus! ya freakin' jewboy (being a fellow jewboy, i am entitled to using such disparaging terminology) open your ears, that phase-shiftery thing that's going on is cool as hell, kind of descending slowly, gradually in pitch and then rising up right before they go into chorus, it's wicked, it never fails to get me off the couch(and that's saying a lot) it's hebes like you with your hair-brained rock and roll senseabilities that our people have suffered for over 5,000 years!(or is it hare-brained?), ya putz!

Waxworks: Some Singles - Geffen 1982.
* * * * * * * *

Not bad. Not bad at all. This was my first XTC acquisition, and thanks to it, I went on to become a huge fan. This isn't the FULL singles collection from 1977-1982, as the title says, "SOME singles," but the singles that were chosen carefully eliminate most of the lyrically and musically annoying from XTC's early catalog. "Respectable Street" is omitted, with its thrashy weird guitars (which would've annoyed me then, although I adore it now), and so is "No Thugs In Our House" from English Settlement, which almost certainly would've turned me away from XTC had I heard it before digging deeper into their catalog, what with Andy's annoying growling and all.

And the singles are primo. Sure, "Science Friction" and "This Is Pop" both contain that annoying early-period XTC sound, but they're both memorable in a retro-weird sorta way, especially considering that the single version of the latter is about 50 trillion times better than the weak album version. The album also contains "Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down," a non-album single from the Drums & Wires period. It's honestly not a very single-worthy song, and kinda downgrades the album, standing up against stuff like "Senses Working Overtime," "Making Plans For Nigel," and "Towers Of London."

Still, it successfully converted me into an XTC fan eventually (I didn't like it at first, but that changed over the next several months) -- seek it out, it introduces the band's early work nicely.

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
Rich here sent me this CD to help his successful "Turn Ross into an XTC Fan!" scheme. Now he just complains that he doesn't have a "good version of 'This Is Pop' anymore". Nifty collection here, "Science Friction" is so odd and corny sounding that it's fun, "This Is Pop" is a good song to mimic Andy Partridge's vocals if for some reason you want to. I know this is titled "Some singles" but why the hell didn't they put Respectable Street on it? That song FREAKIN' KICKS ASS! 8/10 (Ben Greenstein)
"Wait 'Till Your Boat Goes Down" was a huge flop single, and shouldn't have even been released as one - it's just not very commercial. However, it's a great XTC song, and makes this album worth having.

Mummer - Geffen 1983.
* * * * * *

A huge misstep. Initially, I gave this a seven, and the CD version with bonus tracks (many better than the album tracks) is certainly on that level, but this is the album that showed XTC's first progression into studio trickery, and it shows. See, previous to this album, Andy Partridge wigged out onstage at a live show in Paris in the middle of singing "Respectable Street" and ran off the stage-- the band to this day has not toured. The band was reduced to an official trio as drummer Terry Chambers left, mad about this and leaving the band to rely on studio drummers instead. The band got better, much better at the studio approach in the coming years, but their first attempt is a bit shaky.

For my money there're three absolutely classic songs on here, one being Moulding's creepy buildup dirge "Deliver Us From The Elements," and a ballad and a rocker from Mssr. Partridge, the lovely "Love On A Farmboy's Wages" and the brash, bite-the-band-that-feeds-you "Funk Pop A Roll," respectively. "Beating of Hearts," "Great Fire," and "In Loving Memory Of A Name" are also notable but not amazing. The other four tunes on the album are pretty mediocre; Colin's "Wonderland," in particular, shows the band capitulating to boring, mushy '80s synth, a direction I'm really glad they didn't pursue.

Buy it if you're a big fan (like me!), but keep in mind that for its good points, there's just too much working against this album to make it truly essential. The flat-as-an-A-cup production, for example. Steve Nye can rot in hell. Or maybe he's produced other really great albums that I haven't heard yet. I guess I'll compromise-- Steve Nye can rot in Limbo.

Reader Comments (Mark Cybulski)
I agree, though I give it 8/10. Some of the songs are really lame - mostly on the second side. "Human Alchemy", "In Loving Memory of a Name", "Me and the Wind." Though I love "Farmboy", "Great Fire" and "The Beating of Hearts". (Ben Greenstein)
No! This one gets a mid-high eight. Sure, the songs are all weird, but that's the point. I personally love those three jazzy songs on side two - especially "Me And The Wind" - I really like that for some reason. "Beating Of Hearts" is the only absolute loser on here - sorry, but I've never seen that as a great song, or even a good one. The bonus tracks are all incredible, and should have been on the album ("Gold" and "Jump" are two of the catchiest songs anywhere). And, as we all know, "Funk Pop A Roll" is a truly great, new-wavey rocker, with some great manic sax playing courtesy of Mr. Partridge. (Bougopulos)
Dullsville, except for a few standouts in "Love on A Farmboys Wages," "Great Fire," and "Wonderland." I'd say an album only for the really big fans. A 5.
Yeah ill have to agree with the original review here. Its a pretty weak album since they were just starting with their studio band brilliance of their later records. I love "Love On A Farmboy's Wages" though, definatly my favorite track on the album. I definatly agree that the bonus tracks on the CD version pick up the album a bit though. "Beating Of Hearts", "Great Fire", "Jump", "Funk Pop a roll" all great songs as well. "Wonderland" is pretty good for a synth based song, "Frost Circus" is a nice weird and eerie instrumental. The rest of the tracks are OK, but most of them dont do much. It might be because of the production though. Maybe it will grow on me in the future, since i was real disappointed by it when i first got it, expecting other awesome songs like "Love On A Farmboy's Wages". 6/10.

The Big Express - Geffen 1984.
* * * * * * * * * *

Thank god, they got better. XTC turned around from the melodic weirdness of the last two albums and delivered this kick-butt rockfest. BAM! This is the only late-period XTC album that slightly reflects the style of their early Black Sea sound (ironically only four years old yet already an epoch away), and the combination of the jerkiness and the newer, more concise songwriting really works. My personal favorite Colin song, "Wake Up," is on here. It opens with two guitars clanging two different beats at the same time, and somehow they manage to turn this into a song -- and WHAT a song! The chorus is accompanied by a one-woman choir, which ends the song on a one-minute long angelic tune of "Waaaake up waaake uuuup waaaaaaake uuuuuup!" It has to be heard to be truly experienced -- or understood for that matter.

Elsewhere there're flashes of creativity everywhere -- some of the songs that would've been dopey, like the single "All You Pretty Girls" and "I Bought Myself A Liarbird" throw in these hilarious random arena rock drums which completely change the songs into something entirely different. And the most interesting songs on the album are songs that manage to be extremely melodic while retaining the XTC jerky weirdness, such as "You're The Wish You Are I Had" and the offbeat but wonderful "Seagulls Screaming (Kiss Her Kiss Her)." What else is there? "This World Over" is an gorgeous song chastising humanity at the aftermath of a nuclear war, "The Everyday Story Of A Smalltown" is a Kinks-esque marching anthem that begins with a kazoo(!) chorus, and the album comes to a close with the clangy concept song "Train Running Low On Soul Coal," which honestly sounds like a train the whole way through, and continues the XTC tradition of closing the album on a profound note.

The short of it all is that I really enjoy this album, though loads of fans don't seem to like it anywhere near as much as me. Don't consider the bonus tracks part of the album, though, because with the exception of Moulding's catchy (but throwawayish) "Washaway," they suck.

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
It hasn't grown on me much since I first got it a short time ago. "Wake Up" is a great song, great opener too, it can really catch your ear and make you wanna listen to the rest of the album. "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her" is cool, as is "This World Over". I'm not too fond of "The Everyday Story of Smalltown". "I Remember The Sun" continues the trend of slowing the album down a tad, and I get ready to skip over it, but then I remember that that really cool song "Train Running Low On Soul Coal" is coming up next, so I just let it run. 7/10 (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
I would have to agree with you on your Mummer review - although "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" is classic pastoral XTC in my book, it and "Great Fire" are worth the price of the album itself.


I was really disappointed with Big Express (heresy again, huh?) With the exception of "This World Over" I can honestly say this is my least favorite XTC Album (Go2 and White Music not included - those 2 aren't "realy" XTC in my book because fo the Barry Andrews influence).

to each his own....this is not to say I don't like this album, I do, I like all XTC. period. (Mark Cybulski)
I'm not sure how you can put this album and Skylarking in the same class. I would say this is one of their top three albums, but I think 10/10 overdoes it a bit. (Ben Greenstein)
A nine. It's not their best, but given time, it will grow on you. "Wake Up," of course, is a great, chunky rocker - complete with that spooky choir and groovy piano. "Smalltown" is sort of out-of-place, being bouncy and Kinksy, but is also a great song, being bouncy and Kinksy. "Liarbird" is one of my faves - classic Partridge song structure combined with great lyrics - some of his best. "Train Running Low" sounds, fittingly, like a train wreck, but it's incredibly great. A weird song, but weirdness never stopped me from liking Talking Heads, so why should it keep me from this one. The only sucky piece is "I Remember The Sun" - how can you dislike "Ladybird" but not even mention this piece of crap?

Consider yourself warned, though. The clanking industrial sounds should be enough to alienate pop fans, whereas the pop should alienate clanking industrial fans. But, like Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom, this one is bound to grow with time. (Bougopulos)
I was going to say this was hardly better than Mummer but I listened to it again before I wrote this review, and to my surprise it actually is pretty damn good. Granted, "Seagulls" sucks and a couple others are mediocre, but put on "Wake Up," "Pretty Girls," "This World Over," and "Smalltown" and I'll be just fine. Also, one of the extra tracks, "Washaway," is awesome, I don't care what anyone says. An 8. (Alex Temple)
This is the only XTC album I've heard that I've liked enough to buy. It comes right at the boundary between their earlier "obnoxious" period and their later "foppy" period. As a result, it combines the strangeness and deliberately, wonderfully awkward quality that they were about to lose with the sophistication, structure and general compositional tightness that they were just finding. I do like individual songs from much earlier ("Ten Feet Tall") and much later ("River of Orchids"), but for me, this is by far the most enjoyable album that XTC did.

Songs, in approximate order from best to worst (I'm sure this will get me jeered at and hated, but what the hell):
1. Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her
2. You're The Wish You Are I Had
3. Wake Up
4. Everyday Story Of Smalltown, The
5. Shake You Donkey Up
6. I Remember The Sun
7. All You Pretty Girls
8. I Bought Myself a Liarbird
9. Washaway
10. Train Running Low on Soul Coul
11. Red Brick Dream
12. Reign of Blows
13. Blue Overall
14. This World Over (Richard Liang)
The first exposure I had to the Big Express was through "All You Pretty Girls" and "Seagulls Screaming". The first thing that struck me about these songs was the mechanized (for some reason, that word just seems to describe it for me), cold sound. I wondered what had happened to the more inviting sounds of English Settlement and Black Sea. I picked up the album strictly from a completist point of view, as I saw it in a store and knew I wouldn't find it anywhere else. I fully expected it to be one of their weaker albums.

To my surprise I liked this album immediately. The opening ping-pong delayed chords of "Wake Up" really grabbed my attention, and the album just keeps on coming. Once I came to terms with the cold production, I couldn't stop listening to it. My favourite tracks are easily "Reign of Blows" and "You're the Wish You Are I Had". "Train Running Low on Soul Coal" is another favourite, a classic clanking, relentless closer, like "Travels in Nihilon". Thumbs up - if, say, English Settlement is a 10, this is a 9.
Weird shit, and at first i was disappointed, but its definatly true, it will grow on you if you are not sure about it at first. I really love it now. "Seagulls", "Wake Up", "This World Over", and "All You Pretty Girls" are my favorite songs here, all very nice. "Shake You Donkey Up" is a hilarious country/western type here, real catchy and funny. Over all, very great album. May sound weird, but thats because its so innovative. You never heard this type of album before, and probably never will. Only stinker on here is "Reign Of Blows". Just doesnt do anything for me. And underneath all that are excellent melodys and brilliance you'd expect from a great band like this. Ohh, and i really like the bonus tracks. "Red Brick Dream" is very nice. 9/10
A lot has been written about this band already, and I don't feel I have a whole lot more to add (I do own like half the CDs on this page). But I feel compelled to express my appreciation for this album (no pun intended), a truly outstanding and grossly overlooked gem. Indeed, some people seem to know about Skylarking, and the new wave classics "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Generals and Majors"--but only XTC fans have been exposed to the innovative genius of the band's early studio-bound goodies The Big Express and the less-spectacular (but still great) Mummer. Yes, the sound is indulgently experimental this time around, but that was precisely what was needed to exploit XTC's maximum creative potential in 1984. In my opinion, this is the band's first fully-mature specimen of their modern sound, it being of no surprise to me that their late-eighties masterpieces were to follow. It is an undoubtedly interesting and varied set of songs, from the bouncy, country-tinged "Shake Your Donkey Up" to the pretty fusion of "I Remember the Sun." My faves are Moulding's dissonant rocker "Wake Up" and Partridge's infectious sea-shanty "All You Pretty Girls" (even if it does steal the intro-bridge idea directly from "Respectable Street") and utterly beautiful, avante-garde-sort-of-Beatle-esque "You're the Wish You Are I Had" (one of my all-time favorite XTC songs!). Genuine "alternative" rock music from before the industry perverted the meaning of that word. A 9--the proper album (minus the B-sides) is just about as good as Skylarking, though not as accessible.
It still amazes me that people defend this album. For me the whole period is an aberration: the production on BE is horrific: cold, sterile and with that hateful Linn drum sound that ruins potentially good songs like Liarbird and This World Over. Not that the crop is anything to get excited about: Shake You Donkey, You're The Wish and Train Running Low count as the feeblest efforts of a songwriter who is capable of much much better. The throwaway Red Brick Dream is the most affecting song here, why didn't they keep it all that simple? This makes White Music sound like a pop masterpiece. a big fat zero: use it as a coaster.

Skylarking - Geffen 1986.
* * * * * * * * * *

An awesome album! I'm sorry if this is the "critically praised" album and therefore giving it a high grade is cliched and moronic of me in the eyes of some, but there really isn't a bad song on here, and the atmosphere is wonderful! Todd Rundgren was called in to produce this one, making him the only person that produced XTC, aside from Steve Lillywhite, that I've heard wait, I've heard of John Leckie too. That's it, though. I heard that the guy squabbled a lot with Andy Partridge during the recording sessions, disagreeing on how things should be mixed and recorded. XTC sent him a tape of a bunch of stuff they had made at the time, and he picked almost all of the slower lovey-dovey songs -- making this a much slower, mellower, and less political album than XTC had ever released before.

And dagnabbit, it works! While some of the songs ("1000 Umbrellas" for one--just recently, when I was attempting to culture my dad by having this album in his car CD player, he skipped past this song saying "What is this crap?!?" I was about to counter that with a well-placed slam against Bad Company but he'd already gotten into another conversation-- okay, time to get back to the real sentence) have some degree of boring quality to them, this is probably the single greatest example of what's great about the second, mellower face of XTC. This album has "Grass" on it. This album has "Earn Enough For Us" on it. This album has "The Meeting Place" on it. My god, so many good many memorable songs....

The album also contains XTC's biggest American hit, "Dear God." While it didn't hit the charts, it got tons of radio airplay for its controversial athiest lyrics. It's an okay song, it's very memorable and will stick in your head, but if you're an extremely overt Christian, you'd probably have Andy Partridge on your death-list after hearing this. But then again, why the bloody 'ell would forgiving Christians want to kill anyone?

Back to the album. This is XTC's only concept album -- well, Big Express could be considered a "concept" album, but only because of the pictures in the liner notes and the couple of songs on it about trains. On Skylarking, the songs segue beautifully into one another -- the ending of a song completely compliments the beginning of the next. It also fits into the theme of the passing of a day -- the songs at the beginning have sort of a "waking up" feel, while the ones at the end are quiet, dark, and have kind of a "going to sleep" theme to them, such as the wonderful, string-filled closer, "Sacrificial Bonfire." And now I'm going to surprise you by ending the review at this. HAHAHAHA! You get no more! Buy the album. Now.

Oh, also, I was just wondering-- how come everyone says that "Season Cycle" is a Beach Boys pastiche? It's a great song, but people, just because it has harmonic backing vocals doesn't mean that it's in the style of the Beach Boys-- I really can't imagine Brian Wilson writing a chorus like that. For a true Beach Boys-styled masterpiece, please consult the following album.

Reader Comments (Kevin E.)
Like a lot of mediocre bands, XTC were virtually unheard until a single golden moment swept them up and sold 1,000,000 copies of an "incidentally wonderful" recording. "Dear God" was an exceptionally well-timed single by a band that was otherwise incapable of producing consistently coherent material. If this seems somewhat shallow, I revert to the more obvious argument against Andy Partridge and his evil brethren: during XTC's popularity peak the band felt it absolutely necessary to release 3 greatest hits compilations in a window of three years. Unacceptable! (Ross Dickinson)
This album is flawless it seems. It starts out great with songs like "Summer's Cauldron" and "The Meeting Place", in the middle you get "Dear God" and "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul", and at the end you get the orchesta-ish "Sacrificial Bonfire" which closes the album up nicely. 9/10 (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
Skylarking is and will always remain close to musical perfection

I can't say enough about it.

Classic late period XTC. Wonderful. Pithy, piquant and to the point.

p.s. I find Kevin e.'s comments distinctly distasteful (Mark Cybulski)
This album is a pure masterpiece. It flows well, does not have a weak song, and holds your interest the entire time. The best album of the 1980s, say I.
6/10. I agree this is the strongest of the overly melodic, highly orchestrated XTC albums, BUT it's still only my fifth or sixth favorite of their releases. However, I do credit this album for getting me into them in the first place, for it was the first XTC disc I ever heard. Higlights: Moulding's "Grass" and "The Meeting Place"; Partridge's "Earn Enough for Us", and (of course) "Dear God", the atheist anthem that sums up in 3.5 minutes what Marilyn Manson has been trying to say his entire career. (Ben Greenstein)
Hey, Mr. Mattro! This is only my fifth or sixth favourite XTC album, but that doesn't mean it deserves a low score! It's great! The production is terrible, thanks to that bastard-piece-of-crap-seventies-rock-wuss-asshole Todd Rundgren, but the songs are superb. "Supergirl" sticks out like several sore thumbs, and I always found both "Grass" and "The Meeting Place" to be a bit dippy, but the rest are perfect!

"Another Sattelite" has got to be one of my favourites. It makes me cry to hear it, seeing as I've been on the opposite end of that type of relationship many times. "Season Cycle" is a great, Beach-Boyzey "rollicker," and "Sacraficial Bonfire" has some of the neatest pagan string licks (the only pagan string licks) I've ever heard. And, as cliched as it is to say so, "Dear God" rules. It doesn't just kick my ass, it murders it and claims it in the name of Canada.

So a nine it is! Nearly perfect, though I hated it at first. I though it was hippy music! Stupid young man. Like Mattro! (Joking!) (Jeff Rouze)
Most of XTC's albums are anywhere from good to great, but Skylarking rather sucks. It is a far cry from the more fun, snappy, and interesting songs from their best albums (Go 2, Drums and Wires, English Settlement). Buy this one only after getting the other ones. 4 stars. (Jeff Blehar)
I wonder if this means that I don't just "get" XTC, but I bought Skylarking and I seem to like it for all the wrong reasons! For example, that ditty "1000 Umbrellas" that you knocked on? Love it! I get this big kick from hearing mopey Andy Partridge go "MII-IH-SERY, OH-HO MII-IH-SERY!" And that Todd Rundgren production that Senor Greenstein despises? Well it floats my boat just fine. Furthermore, "That's Really Super, Supergirl" is a dippy, silly, shameless pop song. And more power to it, godammit! If only every dippy shameless pop song could be this silly, I might still listen to Top 40 radio!

One more thing. I don't know if anyone agrees with me (in fact, I'm sure most won't) but this sure don't sound like a concept album to my ears. Then again, neither does Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In fact, they're actually quite similar (I won't even open THAT can of worms by comparing them in terms of quality) in the sense that they TRY to sound unified, but aren't really if you look at the lyrics. I mean, HOW does "Dear God" fit onto this album thematically? It don't! What's more? This is what's more: that song is easily my least favorite on the album. From the mucho annoying child singing at the beginning to some REALLY hamfisted lyrics and overdone singing, it hits somewhere around an 8 on my cringe-o-meter. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a song that takes a piss on religion, but this one is about as subtle as a punch in the face. That's alright though, because any album with "Summer's Cauldron" (love that "cricket hum" sound! Makes my fortnight!) to "Grass" (now tell me, is this not an obvious drug reference?) and "Sacrificial Bonfire" is alright by me. I haven't had the album for long enough to make a final judgment on it, but I'm going to settle now for a 7/10; from there it can (and I reckon that it WILL) only go up. Dismiss "Dear God" all you want, but any band that made something as Pet Sound-sy as this MUST have a water cooler-ful of talen to draw from. It certain makes me want to go and get their other albums.
Flawless effort in my opinion. Id give this record the 10. Every song is great in someway. Nothin i could really say thats any different from Rich's comment here, since i agree with him, but id give this one the 10, despite it being critically acclaimed and all. Very great album. "Dear God" was the first XTC song ive heard, and i actually thought a female was in the band for a while...
this is the only xtc album i own. luckily it is really great. i love the way the songs blend into each other. and the whole happy pop feel to it. (Rob Treynor)
Interesting. When I bought this LP, it didn't feature "Dear God" - a track that was added later. So, to answer Jeff's comment - this is why it doesn't fit - it wasn't originally there..they just took off the worst track from the album and replaced it (I'm not sure of the history of wasn't until a year or so later that I heard "Dear God" and was dumbfounded to discover it was on Skylarking - I ran home, checked, and..damn! now I had to buy another copy of the album..this time, thankfully, on CD.) I love this album, but listened to it so much in high school that I'm still kinda sick of it.

* Chips From The Chocolate Fireball - Geffen 1987. *
* * * * * * * * * * *

Yeah, so Mattro already reviewed this album. So?!?!? I wanna review it too!... Oh, so I sent in a reader comment too. Well...well.......IT'S MY PAGE! I CAN DO WHAT I WANT! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, if one doesn't consider this, a side project by name, as part of the XTC canon, they're missing out on some truly great music. I gave Big Express the 10 at first, then chickened out and went with the critically-acclaimed Skylarking, but then over the past few weeks I've come to realize that I enjoy listening to this album more than any of the others! So a 10 this is, and a 10 it shall stay.

The idea Andy Partridge had in the mid-'80s was to produce a pastiche of psychadelic music, and they hooked up with John Leckie (producer of their early albums), went under the moniker "The Dukes Of Stratosphear," and two releases were born-- 25 O'Clock, an EP which outsold the contemporary The Big Express, and Psonic Psunspot, a full-length album displaying a wider stylistic range of pastiches.

It's all excellent, in particular the whole of the 25 O'Clock EP's six songs, containing the wonderful tension-filled title track (which sounds like Waters-era Pink Floyd) the happy "Bike Ride To The Moon," (which sounds like Syd-era Pink Floyd), the bouncy, pulsing "What In The World?" and the dark, riffy "Your Gold Dress." All of the songs reflect '60s psychadelic songwriting right down to the primitive-sounding production, and all are excellent. The 10 songs from Psonic Psunspot aren't as psychedelic, but I don't think that was the point of the second Dukes album-- I think that satisfied with psychedelia, XTC now felt ready to move on to other promiment styles of the '60s. And boy, did they ever! Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys is the basis of "Pale And Precious," and unlike "Season Cycle," it actually sounds like a Beach Boys song, ; the Hollies imitation "Vanishing Girl" is chiming and delightful, and the Byrds are called upon for the layered, reverb-drenched "You're My Drug." Some stuff not really indebted to a particular band pops up as well, like "Little Lighthouse," originally destined for Skylarking but produced too mechanically by Todd Rundgren at the time (by the way, check out a recent song of his called "Surf Talks"-- it's really cool compared to some of his older hits like "Bang On The Drum"), a creepy and bouncy song at the same time. "The Affiliated" begins as a dark acoustic ballad but *WHAM!* suddenly it turns into a hilarious bouncy tropical Herb Albert ditty for a minute before ending the song on an acoustic note again. The cool thing is that the song's only two minutes long, so it jumps in, makes its joke, and leaves before wearing out its welcome.

It isn't as well-made as Skylarking overall, but that's not the point. It's much more fun than any XTC album and a must-have for any fan who can find it-- it's out of print, so anything you find is just a leftover copy which luckily hasn't been snatched up by someone yet. And you won't be disappointed! Just try to get the androgynous lyrics of "Have You Seen Jackie?" out of your head. That's my favorite song on here, by the way. It's hilarious! Oh also, the Psonic Psunspot half contains a sort of running Alice In Wonderland child's storytelling theme which comes on between a few of the songs. Pretty darned entertaining. Get this album, or you die.

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
This is an amazing record. To think that a band this good is, in fact, a joke group - it boggles the mind. The songs are just so damn good! I would point out individual examples of exceptionally strong ones, but, to me, that would be the whole album. A very, very high nine for an XTC album, and a perfect ten if you consider the Dukes to be a seperate group. I love "Little Lighthouse"! I love "25 O'Clock"! Why weren't these classics? (Mike DeFabio)
Man alive! How can I have lived 17 years without hearing this? This is so great! I'm going to give it a ten even though I've never heard a single XTC album. 'Cause I guess the Dukes were kind of a separate band. It just deserves a ten, regardless of anything. How any band can sound this much like a sixties band is quite a feat, and any band that can write songs as fantabulous as the ones on here is an even bigger accomplishment. Hoo! Favourites? Well, for one, there's the "I Am The Walrus"-esque "Mole From The Ministry" which I will never get out of my head unless I have doctors surgically remove it, and I'm not sure I want to. The same goes for the solo-John Lennon-esque "Collideascope," the "Only A Northern Song"-esque "What In The World," the Kinks-esque "You're A Good Man Albert Brown," and... yes, a whole lot of these songs sound like other songs. But only stylistically. If you listen to the actual melodies, you'll discover that they're some of the greatest songs in the world! If these guys are a joke band, then I'll eat my own head, because... awww MAN. I could write a ten page paper all about why I love this album to death. But why? You could just run out and get this, and you'd know why. Unless you're Mark Prindle, who thinks it's too happy. Yeah, so's London Calling, what's your point? (Gene Van Dyke)
My roommate in undergrad had Psonic Psunspot on tape, so I was delighted when they released this compilation. To this day, I have stretch marks on my face from how much it made me smile. Superb!

Oranges & Lemons - Geffen 1989.
* * * * * * * *

Your band makes a hugely introspective, wonderful concept album, so how are you supposed to follow it up? With another hugely introspective, wonderful concept album. But XTC isn't you, thank god. They decided to follow it up with a double-album (single on CD, as usual) filled with a bunch of weird, offbeat pop songs! And by god, this album is ODD, particularly when it approaches the end. Stuff like "Merely A Man," "Across This Antheap," and "Poor Skeleton Steps Out" will have you thinking "Yeesh, what was Partridge ON?" until you realize that Andy's one of the "good boys" of the music industry and probably never went near any sort of drugs in his life. Or at least any sort of really heavy ones.

For all of the album's weird songs, though, the band still contributes its share of great pop songs -- "Mayor Of Simpleton" of course, which topped the Modern Rock charts for 14 whole weeks (although nothing on the Modern Rock charts was actually given heavy airplay at the, who cares) along with Moulding's huge, exuberant "King For A Day,"(a song which sounds a bit obviously like "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," but still good) and his other contributions, the GRRRREAT "One Of The Millions" and the laid-back "Cynical Days," which has a well-crafted chorus that flows really well. Ooooh yeah, and of course there's "Chalkhills And Children"! I LOVE that song! It's quiet, flows right by, and simply rules.

Oh yeesh, as usual it seems I've praised an album to death and haven't given very much reason as to why I docked it a couple points. I really need to brush up on my review writing. The main reason I can give is that it's simply TOO weird at times-- "Pink Thing" is a lyrically-ambiguous song either about Andy's newborn son or his penis-- not at all one of Partridge's better lyrical sentiments, and it has a melody that to me just really seems to wander around without doing some of the songs simply don't need to be there ("Miniature Sun," with grating synth brass and a weird, jazzy tune). Still, this remains the most fun album XTC ever produced. Overproduced, but it doesn't hurt very much of the material. It's very hard to go wrong with this album, it's tart as a fresh pastry and there's something for everyone. Trust me.

Reader Comments (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
Oranges and Lemons is a great album - not as good as English Settlement, Skylarking or Nonsuch to follow, but still good. I will always remember driving to my wedding, "The Loving" blasting as loud as I can from the stereo. It is a phenomenal memory for me and I'd like to thank Mr Partridge for it.

and of course "Chalkhills and Children".....sigh.....

This is my favorite release since Black Sea. At this point the band was producing new material/videos every three+ years or so (the royalties on their other discs must be great!). The band had always been well produced, even in its early days, but ever since they stopped touring in the early '80s they'd been able to put their entire focus into making each new release a full-on listening banquet. Oranges & Lemons is no exception. The 15 songs here are rich with texture and influence. The strongest influence on this album is obvious: The Beatles. The Yellow Submarine inspired cover makes this plain before you even spin the first song.

Humor pops up early and often (from "Garden of Earthly Delights"... 'This is your life / And you be what you want to be / Just don't hurt nobody / Less of course they ask you'). Overall, this may be the most laid back, downright funny XTC release. The cartoonish nature of Oranges & Lemons is strong but on-again off-again in nature. From the opening onslaught of "Garden of Earthly Delights" through "The Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day" the album seems headed down a light-hearted path and this notion is reinforced here and there throughout the package ("Merely a Man," and "Pink Thing"). But tunes like "President Kill Again," "Scarecrow People," "Cynical Days," and "Hold Me My Daddy" offset the joy and glee with anger, sorrow and regret. In subversive XTC fashion, even these darker songs are decked out with upbeat infectious pop instrumentations. (Gustavo Rodriguez)
I'm just strange I guess, but this is my favorite XTC record so far. I like it better than Skylarking. I'm not familiar with their more recent albums (but I did buy Apple Venus Vol 1--what an embarrassment!!) but as it stands O&A is a really enjoyable album that presents XTC as true believers in a form of pop music that is in constant danger from disappearing. It's fun, silly, poignant, verbally dexterous, and even disgusting!

"Pink Thing" is an ode to Partridge's own member and the times they've spent together, "One of the Millions" is Mouldings finest moment, "The Mayor of Simpleton" was an updated version of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World," etc. etc.

Great album, although I never cared for "Miniture Sun" either. (Ben Greenstein)
This is one fine album! A nine, for sure. The sound can be a little grating at times, and one of my friends hates it for being "too happy", but I think it's a fine collection of explosive, memorable, creative, and catchy psychadelic pop. The songs are classics, especially "Chalkhills And Children" (that's so incredibly beautiful) and "Mayor Of Simpleton," one of the catchiest tunes ever written. I, for one, like "Miniature Sun" - I think it's a fine piece of angry acid jazz fused with pop music. Name me one other artist that's done that, and I'll... well, I'll feel like an idiot for making such a stupid claim. And about "Pink Thing" - who else could write a song that great about his willy?
This is indeed a weird album... Because it lacks some of the earthiness, the soulfulness of their other releases... The story goes that they really hated being in LA, found it very depressing, and obviously it's not up Andy's alley... So the main thing that comes through on this album is bitterness and angst... 2 very un-XTCish qualities... At least they usually dramatize them, but not this time...

Anyway, these themes resulted in one o fmy fave XTC tunes ever: "Across This Antheap"... Boy, it just SOUNDS like the rat-race... They're not known for anger, but that song really hits it... Righteous disgust, and world-weariness to a tee.. (Bougopulos)
Cut this by 1/4 to 1/3 and you've got a great album. Too many songs seem rather embarassing or too preachy. Still, I love "Miniature Son," "Garden of Earthly Delights," and "Scarecrow People" in addition to the obvious highlights. Score the album a 7. (Brian Downing)
Great album, great songs, miserable production. Paul Fox is the WORST producer of all time. He wrecked Perspex Island by Robyn Hitchocock and the Egyptians is a similar manner. Way too busy mix with electro-drums too dominant in the sound. Robert Christgau called Oranges and Lemons the greatest Def Leppard album released in 1989, and I'm convinced it's due to the offensive hair metal production, not the great quality of the songs... (Richard Liang)
This album has just never caught my fancy. There are some glittering, brilliant, shining, beautiful moments ("Mayor of Simpleton" anyone?) but I find the sound a bit off-putting. It sounds like Partridge ran rampant with the production, throwing everything and the kitchen sink on the album. I've never liked "Garden of Earthly Delights" either. I'll give this one a 6.5.
Wonderful album, chock full of these really great quirky pop songs. The whole thing is great, maybe a few id skip over here and there, like "Miniature Sun", or "Across The Antheap", which are pretty bizarre and i am never in the mood for (except maybe while stoned or something). But some of my favorites here are "Mayor Of Simpleton", "Here Comes President Kill Again", "The Loving", "Pink Thing" (hilariously brilliant if you ask me), and the beautiful "Chalkhills And Children". The rest are very good, and id probably rank this as my 2nd favorite XTC album, 2nd to Skylarking, even though i havent even heard Nonsuch, either of the Apple Venus's or the critically acclaimed Chips From The Chocolate Fireball yet, as of this writing. This album gets a 9 overall from me. (Sam Johnson)
Hey there, I thought I'd offer some comments on XTC's Oranges and Lemons. I had actually never heard of these guys until I read your reviews, saw one of their albums in a used records store and got it on a whim. Anyway, I enjoy it; Partridge seems to have a great gift for creating catchy pop songs without them becoming dated in a short while, and with lyrics that go deeper than "I wanna love ya". Favorites include "Mayor of Simpleton," "President Kill Again" (despite its decidedly anti-capitalist lyrics) and "Chalkhills." Only complaints are the ridiculously overblown early-80's production, and "Pink Thing" is amusing at first but kinda stupid afterwards (and why the hell does Partridge sound like the bastard child of Louis Armstrong and Kermit the Frog?) I've never heard any of their other stuff, so I can't compare this in relation to it, but on its own it's a solid 7.

Rag & Bone Buffet - Geffen 1990.
* * * * * * *

Collection of B-Sides and rarities that hadn't already been served up on the Geffen re-releases of the past albums. It's actually mostly good, but the reason it only gets a 7 is mainly because some of the B-Sides are pretty godawful, even if there're only a few that are such. On the plus side, "Extrovert" is a hilarious funk number that Partridge recorded while drunk, Colin's single (as the Colonel) "Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen" is really fun, the Skylarking reject "Mermaid Smiled" should've stayed on the album, and "Heaven Is Paved With Broken Glass" works pretty well.

There're also a couple of Christmas songs that, while both extremely cheesy, are still fun to listen to, in particular the second one "Countdown To Christmas Party Time," which is probably the only time ever that XTC used funk synthesizers and gave a try to extremely synthy Anglo-funk. It's either better or worse than it sounds, depending on who you are. The actual single "Thanks For Christmas" is more typical, but it has wider appeal.

The bad stuff is "Officer Blue," a Black Sea reject which makes you see exactly why it was, "Respectable Street" in its cleaned-up BBC form, which, while the song rules, was un-necessary since only a few words are changed, an utterly AWFUL "dance" mix of "Down In The Cockpit" which is ironically less dancy than the original song, and a few nondescript songs which just aren't very interesting at all. But it ends with "History Of Rock & Roll!" Hilarious. You'll like it when you hear it. Still doesn't boost the collection up another point though.

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
I think a seven is just about right. While I would have preferred more Skylarking outtakes ("Extrovert" and "Mermaid Smiled" are great!), I think that this, more or less, is a fine collection of good songs that weren't quite above par enough to make it on the albums. I like "Punch and Judy" and "Tissue Tigers" in addition to the songs you named, and have always felt that "Officer Blue" was pretty catchy and underrated. (Garry Katz)
No one mentioned Blame the Weather, one of my favorites. By the way, Miniature Sun;unlike what some of you said, is easily one of the standout tracks on Oranges and Lemons. Also, how could real XTC fans not like Remember The Sun. That's easily the most melodic track on The Big Express, and has a great jazz feel. (Bougopulos)
Divided between greatness ("Strange Tales, "Strange Tails," "Extrovert") and awfulness ("Heaven Is Paved With Broken Glass," "I Need Protection"). A 5 at most.
A most entertaining purchasing tool from the boys from Swindon, with many random treats on board. The groovy single version of "Ten Feet Tall," catchy English Settlement reject "Punch and Judy," live "Scissor Man," very British "Thanks for Christmas," and movie soundtrack installments "Happy Families" and "Take This Town" are all among the standouts that make this compilation well worth owning--especially because you can now get it for $7 NEW! "Extrovert" is awesome, even if it does sound like a corny "Weird Al" Yankovic-original melody (that is not to put down the comic genius). Moulding's "The World Is Full of Angry Young Men" is also a personal favorite--plush jazz-fusion with sweet guitar licks that bring to mind the great Steely Dan, no exaggeratin'. I have to disagree about "Officer Blue." It's a fun little divvy; but, then again, I also like "Smokeless Zone." And, yes, "History or Rock and Roll" is hilarious. Some of the selections are just atrocious ("Heaven Is Paved with Broken Glass," "I Need Protection," "Strange Tales, Strange Tails"--need I say any more?). "Countdown to Christmas Party Time" is SOOOOOOO WHHHIIIIIIIT!! But there is great stuff here, and XTC fans should not pass it up just because it's a rarities collection. I agree with the 7.

Nonsuch - Geffen 1992.
* * * * * * * *

This is the album that SHOULD have followed Skylarking -- it's slowish pop in pretty much the same vein, only this time around, there're a few more songs, the song count for this one being 17 whole compositions! Each one a full song! That's more than any other XTC album, even the ones with extra B-Sides added! (Well...White Music has 19 songs with B-Sides, but really, only about ten of the tracks on that album can be considered songs.) Anyway, if you're looking for catchy singles, this album probably won't disappoint you, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" is an anthemic rocker that's a close shave with mainstream music, "The Disappointed" is slow, rolling, and pleasant, and "Wrapped In Grey" is a phenomenal slow buildup song which rivals "This World Over" for Partridge's best lyrics of all time. It's also the reason that XTC went on strike for 7 years up until Apple Venus -- Virgin Records wouldn't let them release the song as a single, and this really, really ticked off Partridge. ANYWAY! Other songs that're really good this time around include "Then She Appeared," "Dear Madam Barnum" and "My Bird Performs." I'd describe them, but that'd be SPOILING IT! I shall not do such.

The big two-point downer for this album, however, is the fact that there are just TOO MANY slow songs, which get kinda repetitive after a while. "Humble Daisy," "Rook," and "Bungalow" will probably just float right by you, as none of them really do anything to catch your attention, not that they're awful songs or anything. The more creative numbers, though, such as the great "War Dance," "The Smartest Monkeys" (which would be much better if not for its obvious cheesy political lyrics) and "Omnibus," a really fast, bouncy tune, will keep you rolling.

I guess the best way to sum up this particular outing by XTC is that if you like your music slow, grandiose, and mechanically-written (the fact that XTC are confined to the studio really begins to show here), it can be considered a masterpiece, but it isn't a melodic pop masterpiece like Skylarking or a jerky album-rock masterpiece like The Big Express. Take it slowly, it's rewarding in the end no matter what way you put it.

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
An ok album for the mellow pop type. "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" is borderline my favorite XTC song right now. "The Ugly Underneath" is really cool. "Crocodile" can be annoying, but the "CROCODIIIIIIIIIIILE!" part is fun. "War Dance" is cool, and I'm not sure why some people just don't like it. "Bungalow" I skip it alot, not my cup of tea really. Another Gripe I have with this album is just the box, and that's probably Geffen/Virgin's fault. They put the damn "Geffen" sticker on the inside of the box where you have to tear it apart to take it out! GAH! 7/10
This is actually the album that launched me into's so lush, so pastoral... I actually think Humble Daisy (or Daify, as they wrote it), Bungalow, Rook, and Wrapped in Grey are smashing successes... This album is a sonic painting... I think a band reaches their pinnacle when they can take their sonic vision and put it across in a cinematic manner... When it evokes an endless series of images and feelings... And I think they really achieved and sustained that cinematic quality on this disc... Although Apple Venus could prove me entirely wrong! (Jeffrey W. Wall M.D.)
I think I would have rated this one higher, but hey that is just me...

I like every song on this album except...Bungalow....

"Wrapped in Grey" is Mr. Partrdge at his absolute best.

check out my web page, I have an image based on Peter Pumpkinhead there - and fill out the guest book to won't you?
5/10. Lost a great deal of interest in the band by the time this one came out. In my brain, Nonsuch can't even hold the door for any of XTC's previous albums (except, perhaps, the first two). Perhaps I haven't listened to it enough, but this one wasn't enough to distract me from the other things that were happening musically in the early '90s. I'll dig this one out and try it again, tho... I promise! (Ben Greenstein)
I like it more than Skylarking - I know that's just me, but I really like all of the songs on here. Even the pretentious stupidity of "The Smartest Monkeys" works for me. I don't like "Peter Pumpkinhead" as much as I used to, but it's still great. And a couple, like "Wrapped In Grey" and "Rook", are damn beautiful! Their most interesting album, by far.
Nonsuch-One of the most beautiful collections of music I have ever heard. It could only ever be english. Andy Partridge's work lifts me like no other writer. Wrapped in Grey is for me the greatest song ever written.

Andy - thanks

Testimonial Dinner - Geffen 1995.
* * *


Pretty darned worthless, but it's not XTC's fault. Every song represented on this tribute is amazing! Unfortunately, they're not played by XTC themselves, they're played by a bunch of people trying to pay tribute to XTC by "making their mark" on a load of once-great songs. This means that we have to sit through a dreary Sarah McLachlan version of "Dear God," a wimpy Freedy Johnston version of "Earn Enough For Us," an overdrawn Spacehog version of "Senses Working Overtime"(which eliminates the buildup and goes straight for the chorus at the beginning, thus ruining the whole feel of the song) and a horrible heavy version of "Wake Up" stripped of a one-woman choir and delivered in an irritating macho voice courtesy of the Verve Pipe, who were still obscure since they hadn't hit with that terrible "Freshmen" song yet. And that stupid song was popular during my freshman year! Do you have any idea how irritating that was?!?!?

P.Hux's version of "Another Satellite" eliminates the reverb, which was basically the original song's entire addictive quality, and though I like Joe Jackson, his straight-faced reading of "Statue Of Liberty" is just a bit too simplistic, polishing away all of the tune's rough edges that made it one of the better White Music tracks. And the Rembrandts cover of "Making Plans For Nigel" They don't do much to the song except sing it in a a really irritating voice (yeah, yeah, Colin Moulding's voice is irritating too, I know, but it fit the song), and that's enough to ruin it.

Three good tributes are on here, and one of them is by XTC themselves! They appear on their own tribute album doing a reworking of "The Good Things," a B-side from the Oranges & Lemons era and a majestic-sounding, world-weary song that they should've saved for one of the Apple Venus albums. Ruben Blades' big-band version of "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" is also a nice take on the song, and Gods-Among-Men They Might Be Giants perform an excellent cover of the Dukes tune "25 O'Clock," which I love because 1) They don't try to change it too heavily, and 2) I'm an utter TMBG fanatic. Which means that by logic, the Verve Pipe fans all love the "Wake Up" cover. But I guess that's just a drawback of liking them, now isn't it?

Basically the only reason to purchase this collection is to see who has been influenced by XTC over the years-- but you can do that by looking at the track listing. Save money. Don't buy it. Try to find an MP3 of "The Good Things" and the TMBG cover, however.

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
My sister has the Verve Pipe's CD, and, with the exception of that awful, wussy, freshman song, all of the songs are awful, unintelligable "hardcore" crap. Believe it or not, "Freshman" is the best song on there!

As for A Testimonial Dinner, I have heard it, and I do hate it. I was initially excited that it featured two songs, performed by two of my favourite groups (TMBG and Crash Test Dummies), and written by another fave - but then realized, upon listening to it, that the versions are so vastly inferior to the original band's recordings, that... um... they suck! And those are the best takes on here!

We've got Sarah McLaughlin (everybody's favourite Peter Gabriel hack) mangling "Dear God," and transforming it into generic lounge folk, the afformentioned Verve Pipe reducing "Wake Up" to a incoherent pile of incoherent noise, and Spacehog (who I barely remember from junior high) giving "Senses Working Overtime" an ugly, half-assed treatment. I think it's kind of cool that they use the "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" as the intro countoff, but what's up with the guy's voice? It's like he tried to make it ugly on purpose! I give the album another 3.

And how can you like Joe Jackson? Some of his stuff is okay, but isn't he just a pallid Elvis Costello/early XTC ripoff? Isn't "Fools In Love" just a lousy attempt at "Watching The Detectives," but with no redeeming factors except the groovy piano solo? Sorry - I just really don't like the guy, the exception being about two songs on the Night And Day album.

(Mike DeFabio Reviews) Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 - Virgin 1996.
* * * * * * * * *

Okay, I'm not mister big XTC fan like Rich and Ben here, but I can't help but declare to all the world here that they were an awesome singles act. There's really only one bad song on here, I think, and that's Wonderland, but the rest, OOO! The rest is just one masterpiece after another. It starts out with the early new wavey stuff with the hokey keyboards, "Are You Receiving Me" and the like, then it moves on to the more sophisticated Police-type new wave with "Making Plans For Nigel" and it's Drums and Wires-era buddies, and then the first disc reaches its high point with the five best songs from Black Sea, which, in this context, sound MUCH better than on the album (one note here, about Respectable Street: The lyrics have been censored! "Abortion" has been changed to "absorbtion," "contraception" to "child prevention," "sex position" to "proposition," and "retching" to "stretching," which makes the song more socially acceptable, but also strips the song of a substantial amount of what it was supposed to say. In fact, a lot of it doesn't make any sense. BUT... the vocals are a lot better, with neat little background things going on, and they got rid of the boring intro, so that makes up for it.) and finishes off with three wonderful little ditties from English Settlement. The second disc is devoted to the studio-bound Beatles and Beach Boys type stuff, which it significantly weaker than the stuff on the first disc, mostly because it's not that exciting and rocking, but they're still very good songs, for the most part, and it's the stuff that most people like because it's slick and poppy, so you folks'll be sure to like it more than me. I, however, think the first disc alone is worth the expensive import price. Which brings me to another thought... why wasn't this released here in the States? They released Waxworks, and the Upsy Daisy Assortment, both of which are WEAKER! Even if you bought both of those, you wouldn't have all the songs on here. What about "Wake Up?" What about "Great Fire?" Where are those on the domestic compilations? Anyway, this is an amazing collection of songs, and if you find it on sale or something, be sure to snatch it up!

Reader Comments
Well, gee-- I hated "Respectable Street" until I heard the song with its Black Sea intro. The intro isn't very successful musically, BUT, it strengthens the song in a "Bohemian Rhapsody" sort of way in that it builds up anticipation for the more exciting part of the song. And here, you only have to wait 20 seconds!

I've seen the tracklisting for this compilation, and it gets my pretentious seal of approval. It's a bit hard to find unless you're a Brit, though, so us Yanks mostly have to stick with the slightly-weaker Upsy Daisy Assortment.

Upsy Daisy Assortment - Geffen 1997.
* * * * * * * * *

In pretty much every interview with Andy Partridge that I've read concerning this Best-Of album, he always says "It's like Geffen took a dartboard, pinned all of our releases on it, and randomly threw darts!" He sums this album up pretty darn well -- for a Best Of album, there's sure a lot of stuff that you wouldn't expect to see. Oh sure, we have the obvious stuff like Mayor Of Simpleton, Making Plans For Nigel, The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead, Dear God, and This World Over, but we also have lots of more obscure, random stuff. "Seagulls Screaming (Kiss Her, Kiss Her)"? Sure, it's a good song from Big Express, but it wasn't a single, or a hit, or even CLOSE to being a song that'd hook in listeners who're picking up this album to test out XTC's sound.

The same goes for the choices from Mummer. The big single "Love On A Farmboy's Wages" is included, but the other two singles "Great Fire" and "Wonderland" are skipped in favor of "Funk Pop A Roll," which wasn't even released as a single! We're talking random here. Of course, I like the song better than either of those two singles, who why'm I complaining? And is "why'm" even a real contraction?

Still, no matter how much I complain, the tracks are all primo choices, the first two formulative albums are completely skipped (though I'd have liked to see "Are You Receiving Me?" on here), and lots of great material from Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons is included, exactly the stuff you'd expect them to put on. But the randomness is still there...oh well, it's a very worthy collection nonetheless. Whatever!

Reader Comments (Ross Dickinson)
Nothing much to say really, but I did listen to it 500 times over before I went out and bought Black Sea, which I made Rich here dub for me before hand. Oh well. 9/10

Transistor Blast - TVT 1998.
* * * * * * * * *

That's right, they're BACK! XTC got rid of their corrupt contract with Virgin Records (Geffen was their U.S. distributor) and signed on with TVT Records, who opened their XTC catalogue by releasing this 4-CD box set of a bunch of XTC live performances and BBC sessions! Sort of weird for a band that doesn't play live, but that doesn't mean XTC can't completely RIP UP THE HOUSE!

The more concise part of the box set is the part which contains the BBC sessions -- most of the time, the songs are improvements over their studio versions (such as "Life Begins At The Hop" and "One Of The Millions") and the band only pulls two fast ones on us -- the version of "This World Over" is identical to the album version (in fact, it IS the album version) and the recording of "The Meeting Place" contains almost none of the greatness that made the Skylarking version so magnificent.

The other half of the box set is actual live performances -- the first disc of live performances, a 1978 show, is good, but mainly because of the band's sheer energy and tendency to improve on the annoying studio versions of the White Music songs. The second CD is utterly awesome. It's a recording of a December 1980 concert, which means that we get to hear tons of awesome Black Sea songs utterly TEARING up the stage! Plus, we get Partridge's spoken monologue before "This Is Pop" (which is better than both the album and single version) and a big, 7-minute version of "Battery Brides" which is light-years ahead than the Go 2 version, which was light-years ahead of anything else on that album in terms of song quality. And "Living Through Another Cuba" segues directly into "Generals And Majors!" And it sounds AWESOME! And I shouldn't be starting sentences with "And"! And I don't care!

Sorry I was a bit energetic during this review -- it's just that I'm really happy that XTC are back in the recording studio -- I'm eagerly awaiting their new album, which is set to be released in February! YEAH! In the meantime, buy this set. It's very, very, good.

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
Bought it the day it came out, but haven't added a coment until now. Why? 'Cuz it's really not that important!

I'd probably give the album an eight, because the songs are all good, but they don't really add much to the original versions. I already had the BBC Live album, with that cool long take on "Battery Brides," so the thiry or so dollars I spent on this gave me no real new material to digest. Do I really need a take on "Poor Skeleton" without the awesome intro? Why In all honesty, it's not a must have for hardcore fans, and is too pricey for new initiates. So it's not worth buying, despite it's eight rating.
Was so XTC starved on date of purchase,I almost crashed my car ripping open packaging speeding home.Enjoyed quite a lot of studio disks(has anyone listened to how good that darn Earthly Delights is?) And yes,I did notice how darn bad those Big Expess Lindrums sound in the BBC ....Listened to disks 3&4 and had what could only be described as some kind of religious experience....Still afraid to listen to when drinking w/mixed company......Packaging was so cool I layed on my bed with it every day till I met a girl....She wasnt quite as jubulent about Dave Gregorys lead guitar blasts in live "Towers" as I was........I will give this 8/10 just to spite!

Apple Venus Volume 1 - TVT 1999.
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Out of complete hero worship and fan logic I jumped right up and gave this a 9 upon this album's release about eight months ago, but I've decided that it's a bit too disjointed and slightly patchy of an album to receive such a high grade. Regardless of what I just said, I still really like it, so an eight it is!

There're many fine songs on this here album, the band's first after a lengthy seven-year strike with Virgin Records, the lead of which being "River Of Orchids," of which I take issue of a certain Ben Greenstein's comment below calling it "really bad." True, Andy's vocals on the song are weird, but they're not offbeat at all-- is there really any sort of "beat" within the song? It's an odd, complex and interesting enough track to get my personal thumbs up. As are "Easter Theatre," "Harvest Festival," "I'd Like That," "I Can't Own Her," and "Your Dictionary," which I won't quote for the sake of non-vulgarity (for a heaping dose of that, read Prindle's Who's Missing review) and besides, read any given review of the album besides this and it's already quoted for you!

Problems? Yes. As I hinted at before, these songs really don't flow together in a Skylarking or Nonsuch sort of way, and some of the songs are pretty flawed. Andy's "Knights In Shining Karma" is basically nothing but soft, tender vocals, which is fine if you like that sort of thing but a bit boring if you're not in the right mood. Also, "Greenman," though it has a darn fine melody, goes on for a couple minutes too long. And Colin's contributions, "Frivolous Tonight" and the seemingly eternally-despised "Fruit Nut," are far too dinky next to Andy's songs and Colin's earlier body of work-- it's like he wasn't even trying. His tunes are CHARMING, but I'm really hoping he puts a bit more effort into his tunes in the future-- Andy's not showing any sign at all of running out of steam, but Colin sadly may be following the traditional songwriter's downward spiral. Verdict on the album? Good, just not mind-blowingly amazing. It's about the same quality as Nonsuch, only more stylistically diverse.

Reader Comments (Gustavo Rodriguez)
A dud. I'm sorry, it just is. I'm ready to sell my copy any minute now. "Your Dictionary" is unintentionally funny--something I could hear Alanis Morrisette doing. It's hard enough to forgive Partridge for just having a song titled "Knights in shining Karma". Boo. Shame on him! And Moulding--?! "Fruit Nut"??! You must be kidding.

It's shocking how lousy this record is. The only thing I like is "I'd Like That" which sounds like a McCartney throwaway.

Boo again. Depressing. (Kevin E.)
One's enjoyment of this record is entirely dependent on one's tolerance of incredibly finished, synthetic, and slow, meandering ballads. Nonetheless, I'm prepared to rescind many of my former statements against XTC (see: Skylarking) in recommending this album. The orchestration on many of the songs is dynamic, complete (much of the chaotic non-direction that begins "River Of Orchids" is used as the backdrop for one of the best songs I've heard thus far into 1999) and those that don't layer on the lush arrangements wear a bare-bones Beatles sensibility on their respective sleeves.

Outstanding production aside, Apple Venus suffers on some major accords through the inclusion of Moulding's ridiculously wrong-footed "Fruit Nut" and Partridge's "Your Dictionary". A special nod goes to the latter track for containing the lyric "H-A-T-E: is that how you spell love in your dictionary?" which, very significantly, appears to have been lifted from a lovelorn teenager's notebook scrawling. In my opinion, not a very clever approach to lyricism.

There are some outstanding tracks that nicely white out the former weak links; the first three tracks are terrific examples of some genius, symphonic-pop song writing. Most of the other numbers offer the same; "The Last Balloon", the album's epic closing arrangement, contains enough beautiful moments (Partridge's voice being masked by a lone trumpet, vocal harmonies almost sighing out the sad-faced lyrics) to solidify this album as one of the more competent pop releases of the last four years. Rarely do I move outside of my 'musical sphere' but Apple Venus has been a very memorable experience. (Ben Greenstein)
I do like this album - parts of it, at least. But it was a letdown, no matter how I look at it. In my opinion, "River Of Orchids" is not a great song. The strings sound great, but as soon as Andy starts singing (off-beat, by the way) I feel obliged to turn off the CD. Some of the counter melodies make it sound like something from Remain In Light by Talking Heads, only BAD. Really bad. I can't believe that so many people like it.

"Knights In Shining Karma" is an attempt at "No Return" by the Kinks, and since that's my least favourite Kinks song, it's obviously an improvement. Which is not saying much. And Colin's "Fruit Nut", while mildly entertaining, is as much a stinker as everyone says it is.

But those are really the only bad songs. "Easter Theatre" is, in my mind, the greatest piece of pop music by any artist - it's just so full-sounding!!! And "I Can't Own Her" is almost as epic, though it does almost sound like elevator music at times. "Greenman" is huge, and sounds just as middle easten as Andy Partridge insists that it's not. "Your Dictionary" and "I'd Like That" are smaller songs, but they work.

But coming right after Nonsuch, it stinks. I'd have to give it an eight. In my opinion, they should have released it as the double album that it was supposed to be - the electric songs on volume 2 would give it more diversity and fluidity. (Greg Bougopoulos)
While there are some strong songs on here, such as "Frivolous Tonight," "I'd Like That" and especially "Easter Theatre" (definately one of Andy's finest), the album doesn't really keep me that interested. This is especially true as the album winds to a close. I can only give this a 6. (Rob Treynor)
Wow..I seem to be alone on my assessment of this album as a 9 - 9.5. I guess it's where you came from to get to XTC...To me, this album works better than Skylarking as far as continuity goes...

The disjointed, layered, dissonant & complex "River of Orchids" starts you on a journey - and you're instantly thinking "uh-oh..what kind of artsy crap am I going to be subjected to here.." it puts you on edge. It had to be the opening song, because that's the only place this song will work. It may not be that great of a song on its own, but as an emotional vehicle towards the rest of the album, it puts you on the edge of your seat, anticipating more difficult music to follow..

By track two, (I'd Like That) you sigh in releif, as Partridge deals up his best McCartney imitation..... "Easter Theater," and "Greenman" are songwriting masterpieces, probably the best stuff Partridge has ever written.

"Knights in Shining Karma" feels like it was lifted from a Steve Hackett-era Genesis album, so I have to love's so..I dunno...1977-era prog-rock ballad...

Colin's tracks serve much like Ringo tracks on Beatles albums - it brings the band down a peg..and allows us to believe that they aren't nearly as pretentious as some of the Partridge songs..

The rest of the album keeps the 'Easter Theater' mood going, and, well, I'll shut up and quit raving about this album now.
Brought it home and listened and wasnt too sure.When life got difficult(and I got drunk),listened again and cried and cried and cried.Could maybe do without "Easter Theater".... "Orchids", "Greenman", "Festival", may be some of APs best.Production is flawless.Anyone who thinks Colins songs are not up to snuff needs to listen to Kinks:Face to Face or Something Else.Only downside was a sneaking suspision that I would be missing Dave Gregory something fierce,only to have my fears confirmed on Wasp Star(sorry Andy,but you guys should play nice,he added a lot) This collection of sonic salad still rates a 9/10!!!

(Ben Greenstein Reviews) Rejected Songs (Bootleg) - 1999.
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A bootleg of demos of outtakes from the Apple Venus albums (plus a few other rare goodies), I happened across it the other day in a REALLY bad part of town, and after much deliberation, decided to buy it instead of the cheap 1940s biker poster that was being sold on the streetcorner outside. Tough call (sarcasm!), but I think I made the right choice.

See, XTC is one of those bands who don't have "outtakes" in the traditional sense of the word (that is, BAD, sloppily written songs), they have dozens of non-album tunes that are every bit as good as those that end up as staples of every fan's musical library. Songs like "The Ship Trapped In The Ice" and "I Don't Want To Be Here" are without a doubt the catchiest songs the band has ever done, and would have made rather nice radio singles. There's also some stylistic branching here (as always - Andy usually was rubbing around in ambient music while simultaneously developing his own style). Songs like "Prince Of Orange" (which sounds a LOT like ELP) and the incredibly silly surf-sex song "Candymine" really aren't XTC, but they are a lot of fun.

You also get a couple of songs that Andy Partridge wrote for the film James And The Giant Peach, most of which are stupid and fun. In all honesty, though, I respect the filmmaker's decision not to use the songs - all of them but the pretty "All I Dream Of Is A Friend" sound like they were written in three or less minutes. And Randy Newman, who scored the final version of the film, is certainly a god in his own right.

I could have given this an eight, maybe, but - well, they're demos. These would sound great as studio recordings, but they only sound OKAY as demos. They make me hope that the band will hurry up and release another album of outtakes. Plus, the songs (all but the Carmen Sandiego soundtrack song "Cherry In Your Tree," in fact) are filled with awful cracks and hisses that make them sound like, I don't know, FuckEmos Can Kill You, or some other hilariously bad "underground" album. As it is, I should have given it a lower grade, but, as a rabid fan, I don't think I can give ANYTHING this band recorded a lower score than seven.

Besides that debut, which is BIG SHIT.

Reader Comments
As far as I know, the band's planning on releasing a boxed set of cleaned-up unreleased demos called Fuzzy Warbles sometime in the near future which I assume will contain most of these songs, so this review'll only be up until they finally release that. I think I've actually heard most of the songs on this bootleg, fact, there've been a few released quasi-officially, one called The Bull With The Golden Guts for reasons beyond my comprehension. "I Don't Want To Be Here" and "Ship Trapped In The Ice" are two keepers for sure, but the latter was rejected from AV2 due to the fact that it's about their Virgin Records strike (it would be sort of a risky move to release it, a shame), and the former because Andy's being a short-sighted moron who can't bring himself to realize that it's one of the greatest freaking songs he's ever penned. "Prince Of Orange" and "Candymine" are both outtakes from the band's rejected bubblegum album, and both of them ended up on Andy's contribution EP to John Flansburgh's Hello Recording Club. Judging by the quality of some of these demo recordings, I'm certainly gonna pick up Fuzzy Warbles on day 1 regardless of cost! HOO-HA!

And come on, Ben, the debut album isn't that bad--- it's just brought down by loads of awful Colin songs. He hadn't learned how to write songs yet he didn't.

Homespun - TVT 1999.

They're really trying to milk XTC for all they're worth, those TVT folks. I really have no intention of buying this collection, which consists of the demo versions of the tracks on the previous album. Anyone with a slight knowledge of XTC demo recordings knows that unlike other bands, due to Andy Partridge's perfectionism, XTC's demoes of their songs sound exactly like the studio versions with not-as-good production. Colin's demoes are quite a bit more raw, but judging by the thinness of his AV1 compositions, that's not necessarily a good thing. Which leads me to ask....what's the point? Why not just promote the second Apple Venus volume in advance instead of attempting to milk the obviously less commercial of the two? Send in reader comments for it if you wish, if I find it lying around for a couple of bucks one day (or just find the demoes lying on some Napster server) I'll get it and review it.

Reader Comments
I'd have to give Homespun 7 stars. Despite the fact that the demos are so darn close the finished product, Homespun has a simple charm that escapes Apple Venus. Perhaps its the homegrown sound of the orchestra or the slightly varied demos on many of the best songs. There's no doubt that this album was designed to milk the Xtc machine for a little more money. After all the money ripped off from the band by bootleggers (in the form of these demos and others) who came blame them for putting this out? It helped finance Wasp Star which makes it all worthwhile to me.

There are some notable differences in some of the demos. Andy provides the first recorded snippets that inspired the final product and then the first complete demo. It gives us an inside look as to how Andy and Colin created the album. Colin's demos are less revealing but interesting in the differences between them and the final versions of the songs from AV1. The booklet also gives considerable insight into the creation of the songs. The inclusion of the lyrics makes up for the skimpy packaging on both the TVT and Cooking Vinyl editions of the album.

That said, the value of this album is going to be dependent on two things; 1) how big a fan of the band you are and 2) if you liked AV1. If the answer to both is a resounding yes, then you'll enjoy Homespun.

Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2 - TVT 2000.
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This album makes me absolutely giddy as a schoolgirl. Er...It's time for me to stop any pretentious B.S. about XTC being some sort of "inacessible indie band" or some crap, because one listen to this album proves that they're NOT. This is POP, yeah yeah. And shiny pop it is, and wonderful, riffy, shiny pop at that. Andy, clearly in complete control of the "band" by now (a few more years and we'll be dealing with another Jethro Tull, only without the crappy late-period albums) delivers some of his greatest songs ever in the riffy, expansive "Playground," the chugging "Stupidly Happy," the funny-as-hell "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" and the two-part wonder "The Wheel And The Maypole." Meanwhile, Colin's still on that bouncy path he was following on the last album (with the exception of the sparse "Boarded Up") but the songs are generally meatier and less stupid than "Fruit Nut." Plus, his "Standing In For Joe" is a bubblegum song about having sex with someone else's wife! Does it get any better than that?

My only problems with the album lay in two of the clumsier numbers. Andy manages to almost screw up "Some Lovely (My Brown Guitar)," one of his most charming tunes from his Hello Club EP, by piling loads of clunky guitars onto the chorus where they clearly don't belong, and besides some cool parts, I'm never really in the mood to listen to the bluesy "Wounded Horse." Elsewhere, things are magnificent-- Andy somehow even manages to sound like Sting without sounding like crap on "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful." How is that possible?!

For more on XTC, please consult various other review pages on this site and others, where Ben Greenstein and I chew out anyone who dares say any wrong about Andy Partridge, all the while referencing XTC at every possible unrelated turn, like the pair of pretentious jerk-offs we are. Eh, bite me, you're all probably that way about your favorite band.

Reader Comments (Ben Greenstein)
To tell the truth, I'm a little disappointed in this one. As I've only been listening to it for one day (all day, though!), I guess it can either grow on me or get more on my nerves. See, although they've always been a pop group, they've never really made pop music, know what I mean? And now that they do, the results seem at times kind of tame, at least for Mr. Partridge. The only two that I feel brimming with ideas are "Playground" and "The Wheel And The Maypole," which are fucking great songs, and smack anyone who would tell you otherwise. Very much in the Nonsuch vein.

The other songs range from catchy, but ultimately throwaway, radio singles ("I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" and "Standing In For Joe," the only songs I can even imagine becoming hits) and sort-of-creative but not-too-creative pop tunes ("Stupidly Happy," which sounds a hell of a lot like that new song by Second Eye Blind or whatever, and "We're All Light," which isn't anywhere near as great as the other fans think it is). They're mostly good, though - except for Colin's songs. "Boarded Up" has a kinda cool rhythm track, but it's still an AWFUL song (sorry, but I speak the truth), and "In Another Life" is, well, lifeless. So "Joe" is the only song of his I'd keep, yo.

"Some Lovely" is one of those cool Andy songs with lots of great new chord changes (didn't you used to really like that one, Richie?), and I LOVE "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," even if it is a little twee. "Church Of Women" sounds a lot like the outtake "Wonder Annual" (a song I like a lot more), but it's got that cool opening line. You know which one. "Wounded Horse" isn't bad, but it strikes me as a sort of, I don't know, using the "stripped down" idea as an excuse for playing clumsy blues. Which they shouldn't do that often.

Why do critics compare this to Black Sea? The two sound nothing alike! I like this one, though - don't anyone get the impression that I'm saying that it's anything other than "pretty darn good." It's just not "very fucking great." At one point, I was leaning towards a high seven, but then I heard "Maypole." A great song. An eight album. (NickJeri Santangelo)
My husband decided, after listening to "You and the Clouds..." that Sting has been spending his entire career trying to sound like Andy Partridge. (?)

Why do we all decide that anybody who thinks our favorite band "sucks" is an idiot? I think taste has a lot to do with exposure. I didn't even like the Beatles growing up in IckySwamp, Louisiana, where Johnny Cash and June Carter reigned supreme as King and Queen of all things musical. Until I finally got my hands on a copy of the White Album at the age of fifteen -- at which point the conversion was immediate and total.

Another thing I've noticed - if *most* people aren't exposed to a new sound by the age of say, 25 or so, they're probably not going to like it. Why for example does nearly everybody over 40 hate Rap??

The final element is -- openness to the new, which has nothing to do with age. I always sorta liked what I heard of XTC on the radio, but my musician husband didn't manage to convince me to listen to Black Sea until I was 38. Another immediate, total conversion. But I'm the exception (and probably fortunate to be married to a musician - I can really be stubborn about music!) Many people tend to reject the unfamiliar, and these types will never like XTC. For that I am eternally grateful. Can you imagine an XTC fan club full of people who (for example) vote Republican? No thanks. (Greg Bougopoulos)
Now this is what I like! XTC haven't been this catchy since Skylarking, and this album is, for me, their best since that landmark. While this album didn't "rock" like it was supposedly said to, this shows that XTC are still going to be putting out quality pop songs for at least a little bit longer. I give the album an 8. (Rob Treynor)
Hearing the rest of the music composed during their duel with Geffen - it's so smart how they segregated the elecrtic songs to this album and the more pretentious songs to AV1.

At the risk of being slapped by Ben Greenstreet, I have to say my least favorites on this album are 'playground' and 'Maypole.'

But I found some of the writing on this album to be downright beautiful. Favorites to follow:

"You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is fantastic- great love song, intricate rhythm, well produced.

"Church of Women" what endears me to this song is the guitar solo, which starts too soon, stutters until the music catches up to it, and then continues...I love that a perfectionist like Partridge left that in. "Studpidly Happy" - this, in many ways, is like "River of Orchids" on AV1 - it starts off simple, and gets more complex as the song continues..It feels more like a really good Tears for Fears song than something by XTC - but hey..I enjoyed the production, especially the moment that the acoustic guitar joins in.
Took home,listened, and my brain melted with joy on that first listen. Under extended listening,it didnt quite hold up.Thought it was slightly overproduced. Thought many of songs were of average quality for such above average writers.Thought that the better songs should have been packaged with Apple Venus #1 (sorry again Andy,as I understand that was part of the row with Dave Gregory...did you ever think that maybe he was right!)......6/10

Homegrown - TVT 2001.

Pretty much the same idea as Homespun, though this one contains the embryonic (in XTC language: practically studio-quality) demo versions of the tunes from Wasp Star. This one seems to be a bit more interesting and worthwhile, though; often several versions of the same song at different points in its evolution are included and the album is 20 tracks long (22 on the Japanese version, which includes the unreleased "Didn't Hurt A Bit" and "Bumper Cars"). The most interesting inclusion seems to be the demoes of "The Pot Won't Hold Our Love" and "Everything Decays," which were later combined into one song for "The Wheel And The Maypole." That said, I probably still won't buy it and wouldn't recommend that you do either, even though the demo versions of "My Brown Guitar" and "Standing In For Joe" are notably better than those that ended up on the finished album.

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[Thanks to Rich Bunnell]