Reviews: XTC: Transistor Blast: The Best of the BBC Sessions
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"fantastically accomplished"


"The second most important box in your life - next to the tissues."


Wer genauer ergründen möchte, warum XTC zu den intelligentesten und besten Acts der jüngeren englischen Popmusik gehört, der nehme sich etwas über drei Stunden Zeit und lausche den vier CDs dieser Box der etwas anderen Art. 51 Songs, darunter neun Erstveröffentlichungen, werden auch später Geborene davon überzeugen, daß kaum jemand Mod-Rock, Punk und Sixties-Pop so kunstvoll verband wie XTC.
-- C. Hammer, Stereoplay, April 1999

En box på fyra skivor med radiosessions och livekonserter från slutet av sjuttiotalet med XTC är för mycket även för den mest hängivna popdiggare. Ändå finns här en del kul saker. Några låtar från John Peels radioprogram har lite mer driv än albumversionerna. Och eftersom Andy Partridge vägrar att turnera efter ett nervöst sammanbrott i början av 80-talet är det intressant att höra XTC live.
-- PM JÖNSSON, Göteborgs-Posten, 16/4 -99

Betyg: * * * *

XTC Transistor Blast (The Best Of The BBC Sessions) (Cooking Vinyl) Even Zeppelin made do with a double, but XTC have filled four CDs with studio sessions and a couple of In Concerts that confirm them as one of the sharpest, tautest and tensest bands of the UK new wave who could never settle for sloppy.
-- Ken Kessler, Hugh Fielder and Jon Newey, TOP Magazine, February 99

XTC, British new-wavers who have evolved into a refined, reclusive psychedelic pop band, look back on their early years with this four-CD collection of crisply recorded live-on-radio sessions and concert performances. The sound is high-strung and melodic; the lyrics brainy and barbed; the voices geeky and caffienated. The spastic rhythms bring back the lunatic energy of the postpunk era, 1977-80, when the bulk of this music was recorded. Those who know XTC from their finest mid-'80s recordings (English Settlement, Skylarking) might be surprised at the brittle noisiness of the live tracks, particularly an unlistenable version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." But the bulk of the material bristles with a giddy intelligence, a bursting-at-the-seams inventiveness that suggests how the early Beatles might have sounded if they'd grown up alongside Wire and the Buzzcocks.
-- Greg Kot, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT: Recordings, Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1998

Delayed by production problems, the four-CD package"Transistor Blast" (TVT Records) by celebrated English popsters XTC gives box set buyers something new and choice to seek out this week. Contents fix on live cuts made in concert or for BBC Radio between 1977 and 1989.
JONATHAN TAKIFF, KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS, The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), November 30, 1998, Monday
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

XTC, Transistor Blast (TVT, four CDs, $ 44.99). The English new-wave outfit surveys its career from its formation in 1977 to 1989. Bandleader Andy Partridge assembled the 52 tracks, packaged to resemble a transistor radio. Tunes such as Dance Band and This World Over are culled from concerts and BBC vaults. Due Dec. 1, this first XTC release since 1992's Nonsuch precedes two studio albums expected next year.
-- Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY, November 27, 1998, Friday, FINAL EDITION, © Copyright 1998 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

As this uniquely quirky English band prepares to release Apple Venus, its first new album in years, comes a four CD box set of live tracks and BBC recordings. The bulk of the BBC cuts come from appearances on Radio 1's "John Peel Sessions" from 1977 to 1989, capturing the band at its best.
-- WorldBeat: Fresh Cuts, CNN interactive, November 20, 1998, © 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.

del Rock
Rock > Recensioni

XTC: Transistor Blast (Cooking Vinyl, 4cd) * * * *

Una monumentale raccolta di nastri radiofonici da varie trasmissioni BBC solo in parte editi ufficialmente. Gli XTC vi rifulgono nella loro lunatica bellezza in un lungo arco di tempo: dal 1977, quand'erano un'amfetaminata band quasi-punk, al 1989, anno di Oranges & Lemons e della solida maturità psico-pop.

I primi due dischi sono coriandoli da «John Peel Sessions» e dintorni, gli ultimi due una selezione da alcuni show registrati appositamente per la radio inglese per la serie In Concert: il tutto in un box modellato come un vecchio transistor, secondo la nobile tradizione degli oggetti discografici XTC. Un gigantesco greatest hits con l'intrigante coda di molti pezzi minori: e il pregio non da poco di ascoltare gli Swindoniani eseguire più o meno «dal vivo» brani mai proposti in scena.

(riccardo bertoncelli)

El Pais
Guía de Reseñas


The best of the BBC Sessions

Autor: XTC

Compañía discográfica: Cooking vinyl / Discmedi
Género: Pop-rock
Calificación: * * *

Crítica: Como tantos otros nombres asentados sobre un trabajo brillante -Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope y bastantes más-, XTC son el típico caso de banda de pop británico entre lo excéntrico y lo clásico que, por alguna razón, ha dejado de interesar. ¿Por qué motivo? Quien se haga la pregunta lo entenderá menos si escucha esta colección de cuatro compactos con grabaciones exclusivas para la BBC y dos conciertos -uno en la emisora de radio y otro sobre un escenario- que reafirman la calidad de temas como Making plans for Nigel, Statue of Liberty, Generals and majors o Towers of pop.

Autor Crítica: Rafa Cervera


© Copyright DIARIO EL PAÍS, S.L.


xtc- transistor blast: best of the BBC sessions (box set)
label: tvt

i found this superb box set for pretty cheap so i got it. i'm a huge xtc fan and have been starving for more new music since 1992 when they released their last LP, the great NONSUCH. since then, andy partridge has busied himself producing some other groups and artists and xtc has managed to secure a (hopefully) decent deal after geffen gave them years of grief for their no-touring policy. which brings us to why this collection is so great. andy partridge's stage may have made some fans (myself even) think this great band couldn't pull it off in the years between 1977 and 1982 when the band performed fairly regularly. the last two discs in this set put that to rest. these great live documents (the first from 78 and 79 shows with then keyboardist barry andrews, later of shriekback, the second, a much better show from 1980 with the addition of talented multi-instrumentalist dave gregory to the lineup) are alone worth the price of admission, getting to hear this great band playing some personal favorites from their underrated and amazing BLACK SEA lp, like respectable street (with fun audience sing-along) and burning with optimism's flames, as well as the classic towers of london...great songs. the first two discs are great as well, showing what the band did in the 80s as a studio-only group. with judicious use of drum machines and the now-departed dave gregorys tasteful keyboards and guitars, listening to this made me want to dig back into this great band's back catalog.

rating: A+ (and bonus points to much-hated TVT [trent reznor sued them for rights to his own music, they released pretty hate machine] who show much care in producing a well-done and great-sounding box set, the artwork is top-notch as well) look out for apple venus vol.1 (the orchestral record) in february and apple venus vol.2 later this year (the rock record).

-jason l clark

©1999 ploPop, ltd.


Artist: XTC
Title: Transistor Blast--The Best of the BBC Sessions
Label: TVT/Cooking Vinyl
Rating: ***

Transistor Blast Ever since playing in a band that did a handful of punky XTC covers, I have had a soft spot in my heart for this band, especially the early stuff. This 4 CD box set offers up early stuff by the bucket load. The first two discs are BBC studio sessions intro'd by John Peel. These studio recordings are for the true XTC fanatic as they will be the only ones able to discern the minute differences between these recordings and the original versions while the casual XTC listener will wonder, "Why bother?" However, the recording quality is fantastic, most notably on "Poor Skeleton Steps Out" which sounds incredibly exotic compared to the other material. Upon looking further at the tiny notation in the flimsy little book that came with the set I discovered that that track had been recorded in 1989. What the heck is that thing doing in there along with a handful of other mid to late '80s stuff? These tracks seem inappropriate due to the time frame of the vast majority of the material in this set.

Thankfully the live stuff did not disappoint at all. CD3 contains two BBC 'In Concert' performances from March 1978 and January 1979 and they are very good. This CD provides the opportunity to hear Barry Andrews (previously of King Crimson) playing keyboards and organ live--in fact, the 1979 tracks are from Andrews' last show with XTC. Hearing this era of XTC live it is obvious what a huge influence the Beatles were on this group and how hard they pushed this sound to nearly Devo-esque eccentricity. Leap-frogging from the jangly poppiness of "Science Friction" to the punk-influenced "I'll Set Myself On Fire" without any studio tweaking, it's all about attitude and delivery.

The final CD is a set of tracks recorded live at the Hammersmith Palais at the end of 1980. The CD begins with a great version of "Life Begins at the Hop", a powerful preface to a energy-packed show. A couple of tracks later, the audience sings an incredible introduction to "Respectable Street" and come off sounding like they may be a little more on key than Andy Partridge. However, without Barry Andrews' nimble keyboard execution, songs like "Scissor Man" and "Battery Brides" give the impression that the band is simply nodding their heads towards the era that they helped start--New Wave.

In general, the booklet seems to be an afterthought and the "Transistor Ballast" studio sessions are redundant, but the 2 live CDs redeem the collection. Combining these live recordings with XTC's performance in the 1981 film "Urgh! A Music War" creates a package of irrefutable evidence to reject Andy Partridge's bogus 1982 claim that he was a sufferer of horrible stage fright (thus ending all live performances of XTC). If you are old enough, you are fortunate to have even had the chance to see XTC play in that tiny window of 1977-1982. If not, the opportunity presents itself here--take advantage of it, or at least, borrow this set from your nearest XTCphile. Tom

The Bottom Line: This is pop! Old school.

©1998, 1999 Konketsu. All Rights Reserved.

Further Entertainment
August 1999

XTC “Transistor Blast” - Box

Cooking Vinyl

Wie sich doch die Zeiten ändern - noch vor wenigen Jahren wäre eine 4-CD-Box von XTC einen schönen Zweiseiter mit Photos und Interview wert gewesen; etwas besonderes von einer besonderen Band, von sachkundiger Redaktionshand mit Liebe zwischen SÜß und VERNÜNFTIG plaziert. Handelt es sich hier doch schließlich um die “zweitliebste Kritikerband nach den Beatles” (SPEX 1/87) und in diesem Magazin in den 80ern zurecht wohlgelittene und bewunderte Künstler, denen ich im Rahmen einer einfachen Plattenkritik nicht gerecht werden kann. Zumal seit dem letzten Lebenszeichen der Band Jahre verstrichen sind und die vorliegende Sammlung alter Songs aus diversen BBC-Sessions nach Ansicht der Plattenfirma die Band für das Publikum der Gegenwart in Erinnerung rufen soll. Schließlich kommt nächstes Frühjahr eine CD mit neuen Aufnahmen, die ihr alle kaufen sollt.

Also, was ist hier los? Vermutlich haben die an sich zuständigen Alt-Redakteure diese Box schon gehört und dankend abgewunken, denn, das sei mal vorausgeschickt, diese Box ist als Produkt wirklich fragwürdig und tut der Band wohl keinen Gefallen.

“The best of BBC Sessions” steht auf dem Schuber, es handelt sich um Aufnahmen aus den Jahren '78 bis '89; zwei Studio CDs, zwei live '78-'80. Was wir nicht erfahren, ist wer aus den Stapeln mit Aufnahmen das “best of” destilliert hat und warum die Songs in dieser Reihenfolge auf CD gebannt wurden - wild durcheinander Altes und Neueres, zwei der wichtigsten Songs fehlen (“Senses working overtime”, der größte Hit der Band, und “Complicated Game”, die Nummer, die '79 die letzten Punks aus dem Publikum vergraulte), kaum Informationen im Beiheft, und das Ganze in einem Design verpackt, das auf ein jugendliches Publikum zielt, ohne daß das jugendliche Publikum nachvollziehen kann, warum es diese Band toll finden soll. Denn die hier vorgestellte Musik klingt für mein greises Ohr 1998 schon sehr alt ohne begleitenden Spot auf ihrer Epoche. Wo bleibt die historisch-kritische Spex? Auffällig ist, daß die Aufnahmen der Band nach'82 wie auf den Original-LPs auch hier abfallen, durchhören kann man die zwei Studio-CDs kaum deswegen. Lediglich das 80er Konzert auf CD Nr.4 ist ungeschnitten. Warum hat man sich nicht ein Beispiel genommen an der Pere Ubu- Box, die das Material einer Band im zeitlichen Kontext geordenet und übersichtlich präsentiert? So, wie das hier gemacht wurde, haben nicht mal die Plattensammler unter den XTC-Fans was davon. Auch kurze Texte von Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding zu ihren hier versammelten Stücken erhellen kaum irgendetwas; Ihr müßt wohl nochmal nachschlagen in SPEX 1/87 und 7/89 oder die MOJO-Ausgabe kaufen, wo der Zweiseiter mit Photos, Interview und Discographie von sachkundiger Redaktionshand mit Liebe zwischen FAST und TEMPORARY plaziert wurde.

Ich kann der Plattenfirma nicht mal vorwerfen, daß hier mit einem Schnellschuß auf Euer schönes Geld geschielt wird, diese Box braucht nämlich wirklich niemand. Kein Wort darüber, daß die Band diverse Entwicklungsstadien durchgemacht hat (erinnert Ihr Euch an sonst eine Band, die zwischen '78 und '82 gleich 5 richtungsweisende Platten gemacht hat?), keine Würdigung der Leistungen der beiden vielleicht profiliertesten Songwriter dieser Periode. Das ist einfach ärgerlich und macht mich auch nicht eben neugierig darauf, was Cooking Vinyl wohl mit den neuen Aufnahmen nächstes Jahr veranstalten werden.

Das wir uns hier richtig verstehen - an der Qualität der Musik von XTC ändert diese Box gar nichts, aber eine sorgfältigere, stilvollere Edition hätte ich ihnen wirklich gewünscht. Diese Chance wurde hier mutwillig vertan. Wer will, bekommt von mir ein Tape mit “Best of Best of BBC Sessions”. Noch besser wäre, Ihr kauft Euch White Music (1978); Go+ (1978); Drums and Wires (1979); The Black Sea (1980); English Settlement (DoLP!!!) (1982), Mummer (1983); The Big Express (1984); Skylarking (1986)

La Mosca
August 1999

¿Transistores? ¿Qué son transistores?

El nombre de Delia M. es certamente legendario y especial para los antiglos seguidones de Radio UNAM. . .colaboradora de nuestra revista, nos visitara frecuentement son su singular estilo.

A quí, en mi casa, es bien sabido que XTC está muy cercano a mi corazón. Tengo todos los discos en varias ediciones, me sé todas las letras, he leído las biografías y nunca he perdido la esperanza de que Partridge, a pesar de que está en la edad media (andropausia), decida deshacerse de su fobia y A ESTAS ALTURAS LE JUEGUE AL ROCK STAR: limusinas, groupies, bouncers. Aunque todo esto sea en un concierto virtual, como parte de mi vida imaginaria.

He andado un poco aburrida con la música actual, salvo Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elliot Smith, Robyn Hitchcock, poco me entusiasma y me he dedicado a llenar huecos de mi discografía, a tal grado que hace poco organicé un revival de Richard Thompson.

Mi amor a la sopa de letras me ha hecho patrocinar a veces a grupos como OMD, U2, NWA, B52's, X, REM, MC5, UB40, KMFDM y, claro, XTC.

nada como desaparecer para mitificarte

En el congelador musical desde hace siete años, mis héroes musicales no han sacado nada por la guerra que sostuvieron con su marca Virgin, propiciada en parte porque ¿qué tipo de banda es aquella a la cual la mayoría de sus fans NUNCA HA VISTO EN VIVO?

Ante esta situación, la aparición de un producto ¿nuevo? de XTC, me puso entendiblemente frenética.

El que espera, desespera y con promesa de entrega desde el 11 de nov, ésta se fue retrasando hasta mediados de diciembre. Devota fan que soy, había practicado el supremo culto al artista: el de la pre-orden, donde compras material que no existe como tal.

La caja llego el 22 de dic., armada con la info en cuanto a que el empaque era muy frágil e ineficiente y que se iba a desintegrar como artefacto de Misión Imposible con el aire y demás. Con todas estas advertencias la abrí con modosidad y me encontré una simpática caja en forma de radio de transistores con cuatro cajitas de colores psicodélicos.

TRANSISTOR BLAST consta de 52 piezas en cuatro cd's: dos en estudio y dos en concierto.

Los primeros dos tienen material que XTC grabó en la BBC en estudio. Las versiones son, en su mayoría, distintas a las originales y abarcan de 1977 a 1989 Hay brincos de discografía que van de White Music a Oranges & Lemons, revuelto con cosas de English Settlement y por el estilo.

El disco tres es la grabación del programa de televisión Sight & Sound: XTC con quince meses de haber nacido.

Con el entusiasmo propio de la juventud, XTC ataca los instrumentos como si los hubiera inventado. Todo se oye nuevo. Obvia es la explosión que era Terry Chambers en la batería y el misterio a la Fellini-Rota que imprimía el satanizado Barry Andrews a la banda. Este disco también documenta el último gig del tecladista.

Oyendo a Andy Partridge cantar en lenguas, me es difícil imaginarlo en su fase gastro-telónfobico y lo peligrosa que, por ejemplo en "I set myself on fire", se oye su guitarra.

Dos años después: el disco cuatro en una tocada del Hammersmith Palais. Aquí tenemos un XTC más saciado y con la ondita de que el público canta con ellos.

La Radiocaja TRANSISTOR BLAST, que debe su nombre a una línea de "This is Pop", marca el regreso a nuestros hogares de XTC. Cierto: un regreso parcial, porque no todo el material es inédito: dos de los discos se habían lanzado con anterioridad como Drums and wireless y BBC Radio 1 Live in concert.

Con dos versiones de "Life Begins at the hop", "Making plans for Nigel", "The rhythm", y "This is pop" esta caja pareciera ser sólo para XTC-aficionados, pero en realidad es una colección épica en vivo de una banda difunta que dejó de tocar en 1982.

XTC siempre fue demasiado inteligente para su salud, muy fino para punk, más elaborado que los compas con quien fue empaquetado.

TRANSISTOR BLAST también me recuerda que esta banda alguna vez tocó en vivo, y que Andy Partridge y Colin Moulding hacen música inteligente, melódica y comercial desde hace mas de 20 años.

Partridge, como compositor, sólo es comparable a Ray Davies en cuanto aquello de la crónica de la sensibilidad inglesa.

Caigo en la cuenta que esta música me pone feliz y me alerta a esperar el material de estudio del ahora dúo dinámico Partridge y Moulding, que nos brindarán mas canciones de fruta y astrofobia en APPLE VENUS Vol. 1 y 2. Grabado en su propia compañía, "Discos Idea".

Sobre este material Partridge ha dicho: "Es música alternamente victoriana, de los cincuentas, o medieval, toda revuelta. No es lo que supuestamente deberíamos estar haciendo en 1998. Mucha gente piensa que nuestra música es barroca y muy detallada, pero en realidad es rococó, más bien rock-cocoa. El Vol. 2 es un disco básico, de rock eléctrico".

Para cuando lean esto el Vol 1 andará circulando según su disquera Cooking Vinyl en Inglaterra y distribuido en Estamos Hundidos por la alfabéticamente compatible TVT.

Pienso en los extremos y me siento como niña suelta en dulcería, de evitar el azúcar al coma diabético: dos discos nuevos mas Fuzzy Warbles la colección de casi todos los demos de la banda, y la gira (para firmar discos) de Partridge y Moulding por algunas ciudades de USA en marzo.

Así que pacientemente me arreglaré las uñas con pintura MAC color XTC, mientras disfruto de mi energético compuesto de guarana ¿de nombre? XTC.

[Thanks to Delia M.]

nº 2491 / p. 65
Sorties CD Pop


Double come-back de XTC, groupe mythique anglais, novateur et torturé, formé au début des années 70 par Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding et mis entre parenthèses par le duo depuis Nonesuch [sic] (1992). Soit Transistor Blast (Musidisc), un coffret qui recense des titres enregistrés lors de sessions à la BBC entre 1977 et 1989. Et un nouvel album, Apple Venus, vol. 1 (Musidisc), dans lequel XTC, fidèle à son style, pervertit une ligne pop, claire et délicate (cuivres, cordes, voix droite) de recadrages bizarres, d'effets élaborés, d'ornementations tourbillonnantes. XTC ou l'expression d'une fureur lyrique réfléchie et contenue. Gilles Médioni

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

La Crónica de Hoy
La CeDería

XTC: Transitor Blast
(Cooking Vinyl/ TVT Records)

Dice Andy Partridge (una de las dos cabezas compositoras de XTC) que al joven furibundo y ruidoso que era hace veinte años ya lo ha perdonado y, por eso, lo ha dejado salir a la luz con no un disco sino cuatro, empaquetados en esta curiosa cajita que contiene la mejor programación sobre el cuarteto de Swindon que se pueda escuchar en estos días. Transistor Blast reúne interpretaciones que XTC ofreció --en amplio marco cronológico-- para el auditorio de la BBC tanto en el estudio de grabación como en el escenario. No se trata de material nuevo, pero sí deja al descubierto el furor con que estos pensantes del pop contemporáneo arremetían su material desde la lejana época de White Music (1978), cuando estaban en el conjunto los extraños teclados de Barry Andrews y la batería de Terry Chambers, hasta Oranges & Lemons (1989). Por otro lado, demuestra que sus barrocos arreglos podían ser trasplantados con integridad a una sola toma. Los devotos no necesitan más argumentos; los curiosos no podrán conseguir una mejor antología para engancharse al presente de XTC (que abajo se consigna).

Creative Loafing Atlanta
March 13, 1999
Music: Record Reviews

Transistor Blast
Apple Venus (Vol. 1)

While it's no wonder XTC don't command anything near universal recognition (how could they in a pop universe where Jennifer Aniston still nets prime real estate in Rolling Stone?), their relative obscurity may be one the principal factors in their ability to continually produce material of such sparkling quality. Songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are thoroughly inlaid with the cream of what the '60s had to offer rock 'n' roll and those things -- the raw restlessness of punk, the avant pop bliss -- that the decade eventually forgot to transmute back to the pop realm.

What's clear throughout Transistor Blast, the four-disc retrospective of BBC radio recordings issued late last year, is that XTC are pop maestros of the first order. Spanning most of their career, these alternate versions do little to undermine the careful studio craftsmanship of the originals. Despite a lack of emissaries from 1992's Nonsuch, their last studio effort before returning this year, what's collected here makes two distinct points: First, that XTC's tunes are more than substantial enough to withstand any alterations, and second, that Partridge is full of shit when he claims the band was less than adequate live. For those who haven't heard disc four's previously available Hammersmith Palais gig, take note of the intensity.

With the new LP, Apple Venus (Vol. 1) -- which the devoted have been anticipating for more than half a decade -- Partridge in particular shows that neither sleet nor oppressive major label antics, nor loss of principal guitarist Dave Gregory, can keep his artistic endowment muted. Beginning with the lush and complexly cyclical "River of Orchids," through the Brian Wilson-esque chorus of "I Can't Own Her," his mojo remains in full flower. His themes (the environment, female entanglements) may need some fresh kindling, but otherwise there isn't much here to complain about. While Moulding's contributions don't necessarily rise to the heights of 1986's Skylarking, they exude an endearingly sincere workman's pub quality that rounds out their blissful English vision. If Apple Venus is as close to a performance as we'll get from Partridge these days, then it's best to just shut your eyes and color in the rest yourself. -- JoE Silva

Copyright 1999 by Creative Loafing Atlanta

March 2, 1999

Transistor Blast (TVT)
* * * *
Transistor Blast Today's pop songwriters should get down on their knees in front of XTC and proclaim "We're not worthy." Over the course of their 20-year career (which is about to resume, if you believe rumors of a new album in the works), the seminal Brit band channeled new wave, orchestral pop, English politics and romantic sentiment into exquisitely crafted songs that challenged, mystified and influenced scores of other bands. While XTC hit a notable level of success in their homeland (and made a tiny dent on U.S. charts with 1986's "Dear God"), their brilliant albums (Black Sea and English Settlement to name just two) went largely unheard stateside. Transistor Blast won't do much to enhance their popularity here, but fans will be in heaven after exploring this box set showcasing the band at their rawest. Two discs of BBC sessions offer up late-'70s material loaded with postpunk aggression ("Crosswires" and "Life Begins at the Hop"), together with more abrasive versions of textured '80s material like the Tim Burton-esque "Poor Skeleton Steps Out." The remaining two discs show the band at their live best, before frontman Andy Partridge succumbed to his notorious stage fright. A 1980 gig at Hammersmith Palais, captured in its entirety, is packed with some of their edgiest cuts, like the "up yours" to uptight Britain "Respectable Street" and the tightly wound "No Language in Our Lungs." No XTC fan should be without these moments; truthfully, no serious pop fan should either. -Jason Kaufman, Sidewalk

[No thanks to Sidewalk]

n° 2563, 24 fevrier 1999

 Philippe Barbot
Pop cérébrale
Transistor Blast
Apple Venus, vol 1

Pourquoi se contenter de faire simple quand on a les moyens de faire compliqué? C'est sur cette pertinente question que semble s'être constitué, en 1977, le groupe qui répond au doux nom d'XTC (prononcez Ex-Ti-Si, « extasy »...). Sous la houlette de deux forts en thème, Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding, nos bricolos british se taillèrant rapidement une réputation d'intellos pervers, dans un univers musical à l'époque limité à des hordes de punks menaçants et de garçons coiffeurs maniérés. La musique d'XTC puisait aux sources mélodiques des années 60, Beatles and Co, tout en explorant de plus complexes méandres harmoniques, glanés chez des spécialistes de la migraine comme Captain Beefheart.

De la pop, certes, mais diablement tarabiscotée. Psychédélique mais cérébrale. En général, une chanson d'XTC commence tout benoîtement, avant de serpenter dans de vicieux chemins vicinaux, bourrés de chausse-trapes rythmiques, d'arrangements piégés, de textes caustiques, qui laissent l'auditeur aussi coi qu'égaré.

Après sept ans d'inactivité, Partridge et son gang défraient à nouveau l'actualité discographique, en publiant coup sur coup un coffret compilation et un nouvel album. Le premier, Transistor Blast, est un recueil de chansons enregistrées entre 1977 et 1989 pour les fameuses BBC Sessions, augmenté de deux extraits de concerts donnés en 1978 et 1980. On y retrouve tous les tubes du groupe, dont le fameux Making plans for Nigel, joués live avec une férocité et une précision qui laissent pantois.

Dans le second, nouvel enregistrement studio intitulé Apple Venus, vol 1, on retrouve intacte la patte - ici, on devrait plutôt parler de griffe - musicale d'Andy Partridge, le professeur Nimbus du binaire : arrangements de cuivres et de cordes agiles, contretemps et contrechants, mélodies martiales et baroques. XTC cherche des poux à la pop. Devant tant de malin plaisir à piquer la curiosité, on peut se gratter la tête de perplexité. Ou se sentir démangé d'admiration.

Transistor Blast, 1 coffret de 4 CD Cooking Vinyl/Musidic Cookcd 152 - 48 mn, 50 mn, 40 mn et 56 mn. Apple Venus vol 1, 1 CD Cooking Vinyl/Musidisc Cookcd 172 - 50 mn. A paraitre le 12 mars, une biographie d'XTC par Philippe Bihan, éditions Alternatives.

XTC. Sept ans aprè, le retour de Partridge et son gang.

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

February 3, 1999

Gang of Four gets their due props on the new retrospective, 100 Flowers Bloom

By John Davis
Diamondback staff writer

Everyone knows about the British Invasion that stormed across the Atlantic in 1963. Spearheaded by the Beatles, this musical movement was one of the most significant in music and pop culture history.

But the British Invasion that few know about is one that occurred about 15 years later. Bands like XTC, Gang of Four, the Jam, Wire, the Buzzcocks and the Fall were making music that was both challenging and infectious. Yet, for the most part, those bands fell on deaf ears here in the States.

Now, 20 years after those bands started making their inspired noise, they are getting their due.

Both Gang of Four and XTC are the subjects of multi-disc, retrospective sets that show these two leading lights of the British New Wave to be the incendiary, intellectual legends that they should have been regarded as.

Gang of Four was sort of the Rolling Stones to XTC's Beatles. Gang of Four married clanging guitars with rumpshaking rhythms and a vocalist who harangued ten times better than Johnny Rotten. 100 Flowers Bloom is an attempt to condense all of their brilliance into a two-disc set and, surprisingly, it works.

Although XTC rarely dabbled in politics and their music wasn't especially made for club dancing, few bands since the Beatles have had such a way with a melody. Guitarist/singer Andy Partridge and bassist/singer Colin Moulding have been writing pop gems since the band's inception in 1976.

Essentially off the popular radar since 1992 (and they were barely a blip at that point anyhow), when they released their last album, Nonsuch, XTC has finally returned with the release of Transistor Blast, a four-disc collection of live and radio recordings, primarily from the early years of their career.

It's hard to say whether or not this is the place for an XTC novice to start (I'd probably go with Waxworks: Some Singles 1977-1982 or 1979's Drums and Wires), this still has the majority of the songs from their great early albums and also some hints of the direction the band would head in.

The two live discs feature recordings from 1978 through 1980 and it's an astounding document of the band's growth over those two short years.

Starting with the jumpy "Radio's In Motion" (from 1978's White Music) and leading to a seamless collection of songs from Drums and Wires and 1980's Black Sea, which may stand up as the band's best work, the two live discs may be the only evidence us latecomers have of the live whirlwind that XTC once was (the band has toured since 1982 due to Partridge's intense stage fright).

The radio tracks often mirror their album counterparts, but the radio recordings of "No Thugs in Our House" and "Making Plans for Nigel" possess an urgency that is somewhat lacking in their studio counterparts.

The only drawback to Transistor Blast is the lack of much in the way of liner notes. We get a few anecdotes from Partridge and Moulding, but if there was ever an occasion to release a voluminous history of this brilliant band, it's now.

But regardless, Transistor Blast and 100 Flowers Bloom are essential not merely in spite of their packaging or because the music is collected in handy format, but because XTC and Gang of Four are two of the most tragically overlooked band's in recent musical history. Make up for it by picking up these releases.

Property of the Diamondback newspaper, copyright 1997

January 1999

Transistor Blast: Best Of The Bbc Sessions: 4cd

Reviewed: January 1999
Genre: Rock
Key Tracks: This World Over  Roads Girdle The Globe  Cross Wires
MOJO price: £18.99

BBC sessions and live shows, 1977-89, in a 4-CD set retailing at £19.99.

As we patiently await XTC's first studio offering in six years, here's some radio sessions and early live radio shows (some previously available, others not) packaged in a nice, radio-shaped box. This from a group who have avoided performing live for 17 years, and whose leader is so embarrassed by their debut, White Music, he recently begged for it to be switched off when played in his honour in a Bath restaurant. Claiming now to have "forgiven" his younger self, he still considers early XTC akin to being "whacked around the head with a sherbert-dipped crowbar". However, behind the sinew-straining, attention-seeking vocal tics and the we're-different-us quirks, the rhythmic precision, sunny art-pop-punk energy and sackful of tunes still impress.

And the band matured beautifully. While I'm Bugged, Cross Wires, Science Friction are the charming sound of bright young things desperately trying to get up your nose, the twisted metal guitars of Roads Girdle The Globe, the brooding, Police-esque This World Over and a great acoustic Scarecrow People are the direct, unfussy, connecting performances of powerful songs. While there's nothing from 1992's Nonsuch ("They didn't ask us," said Partridge), it's these taut, emotionally focused highlights rather than the flag-waving, crowd-pleasing In Concerts that have you hopefully contemplating the possibility of future live presentations.

Reviewed by Chris Ingham

© Copyright EMAP Digital Limited 2001.

Portland Oregonian
Friday, January 22, 1999
Audio Zone

MARTY HUGHLEY - of The Oregonian staff

Summary: The new "Transistor Blast" gives the faithful a chance to hear stage-shy XTC live

In 1980, the Police -- riding the success of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and bound for superstardom -- played a concert at Portland's old Paramount Theater, what's now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. An enthusiastic fan, I sat in the first balcony. The opening act that night was another band out of the British New Wave, XTC, that I'd seen mentioned in Trouser Press magazine but otherwise knew nothing about.

Even though the Police were excellent that night, my affection was stolen. From then on I cared less and less about Sting and company and became a loyal XTC partisan.

A year and a half later, XTC was scheduled to play at the University of Oregon. I ordered tickets by phone and drove to Eugene with friends. But as I ran excitedly to the ticket window, I was dropped to my knees by an anguish-inducing sign: "XTC show canceled."

A few nights before, XTC singer-guitarist Andy Partridge had reached the end of a rope knotted with stage fright and had flown home to England. Partridge and his bandmates haven't played a full concert in public since.

Yet the band has continued to make records, and it maintains a strong cult following and a good measure of critical respect for its mannered but marvelously imaginative guitar pop. It's even earned a couple of minor hit singles, such as "Senses Working Overtime" in 1982 and "Dear God" in 1987.

But still no tour to reward the faithful -- even though the group has a new album (Apple Venus) due soon from a new label (TVT Records).

So TVT has had mercy and compiled the best available substitute, Transistor Blast. Subtitled "the Best of the BBC Sessions," this four-disc set -- smartly packaged to resemble a '60s-vintage portable radio -- collects a couple dozen "live in studio" British radio performances from 1977-89, plus concert recordings from '78, '79 and '80.

It's mostly a service for the converted, with faithful alternate versions made for the famous "John Peel Show" and the rough-but-ready explosions of the young band on stage. But though it's weighted toward the group's earlier years, it shows a stylistic path from spastic New Wave outbursts such as "Crosswires" to delicately melodic pastorales such as "The Meeting Place" that recall the loveliest work of The Beatles and the Kinks. And by collecting so many of the fascinating points between, it makes an offhand case for the XTC repertoire as a rival to that of Elvis Costello or any other great pop writer of the past 20 years.

Partridge once half-jokingly said the band's main influences were the Archies and Captain Beefheart, and indeed it has managed a remarkable combination of near-bubblegum tunefulness and a penchant for period pastiche, ethnic borrowings and avant-garde angularities. Cheeky sing-along catch phrases and falsetto whoops bounce atop thick webs of twisting guitar figures and drums that sound like detonations. Many of the songs here are celebrations of musical and social innocence: "Life Begins at the Hop," "This Is Pop," "Beatown," "The Rhythm," "Meccanic Dancing," etc. Yet Partridge also muses philosophically about the inadequacy of human communication ("No Language in Our Lungs"), spews a giddy torrent on psychological transformation ("Burning With Optimism's Flames"), casts a wise and wary eye at technology ("Another Satellite," "Roads Girdle the Globe") and chips in social commentary on hypocrisy ("Respectable Street") and invasions of privacy ("Real by Reel").

About a third of the songs here are by bassist Colin Moulding, who's a sweeter and more readily accessible singer and melodist. But his songs haven't the bite or imagination of Partridge's. Even when they address like themes, the results are distinctive. Moulding's "Generals and Majors" is jaunty, instantly catchy and simplistic in its view of militarism ("Generals and Majors always seem so unhappy 'less they got a war"). Partridge's "Living Through Another Cuba," by contrast, is an intriguingly hyperactive world-beat concoction that paints Cold War Britain as a toothless bulldog helplessly watching a deadly game of superpower tennis ("It's hardly love all, and somebody might wind up red or dead"). In Moulding's generation-gap tale "Making Plans for Nigel," both sides are bland conformists; Partridge's similar "No Thugs in Our House" carries disquieting references to right-wing racist violence.

What really sets Partridge apart might be whimsy, as in the cautionary boys' fable "Scissor Man" ("If you wake up guilty in the morning, you may find important pieces gone") or a love song to the Statue of Liberty. Best yet is when he puts this to emotionally affecting use, in expressions of awkward love such as "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty" and the brilliantly drawn seaside vignette "Seagulls Screaming 'Kiss Her Kiss Her.' "

What keeps all this from being an ideal XTC primer are the sometimes ragged vocals ("Yes, this 20 years younger me did sing with a P.A.-busting seal bark," Partridge admits in the liner notes), the absence of lots of key songs even from the early years, and the oddly jumbled track sequencing of the studio sessions.

But it's got enough of the same magic as that night at the Paramount to be a welcome Transistor Blast from the past.

* * * 3 stars

Copyright (c) The Oregonian 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Charleston Daily Mail
January 21, 1999, Thursday
Current CDs
by Michael Lipton

Transistor Blast

A four-disc treasure trove from one of the quirkiest and longest-lived bands to emerge from Britain's late 70s New Wave movement. The first two discs are made up of original studio recordings and BBC sessions. If you're familiar with the band's early (and, without question, superior) material, you'll get a taste of tunes like "Ten Feet Tall," "No Thugs In Our House" and "Making Plans For Nigel" performed in a stripped-down, non-studio setting. The results are arguably better than the LP versions: of superb quality, tight, energetic and filled with surprises. The two live discs were compiled from three shows recorded between 1978 and 1980 by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Andy Partridge.

If the clarity of the studio tracks was surprising, the 25 live cuts are just as remarkable - and revealing. This is anything but the usual haphazard compilation littered with "outtakes" that should have remained on the shelf.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

De Gazet van Antwerpen
zaterdag 9 januari 1999

Prille XTC in cd-box

Lang voor de gelijknamige drug aan populariteit won, schudde de Britse rockgroep XTC al aan de lopende band verslavende deuntjes uit de mouwen. Inmiddels roeit het combo al twee volle decennia tegen de commerciële stroom in. Uit de BBC-kluizen ontsnapt nu een vierdelige, als transistorradio vormgegeven cd-box met prille opnamen van de groep.
Eind jaren zeventig ontsproot XTC samen met toenmalige geestesgenoten als Elvis Costello en Joe Jackson uit de naweeën van de punk. Spilfiguur Andy Partridge bekeek pop door een intellectueel brilletje en verpakte zijn spitsvondige teksten in dito liedjes. In de begindagen klonk de groep nog vrij rechttoe, rechtaan. Het is voornamelijk uit die periode dat de BBC vier cd's puurt; twee met prille radiosessies, twee met concertopnamen.
De studio-opnamen laten een nog groene groep in volle groei horen. Boeiender zijn de twee live-cd's, met een geschifte cover van Bob Dylans All along the watchtower en eigen hits als Making plans for Nigel, This is pop en Life begins at the hop. Vooral waardevol aangezien de groep even later haar buik vol had van optredens en tot op heden niet meer op een podium te zien was.
Toch lijkt deze cd-box uitsluitend besteed aan verstokte fans. Anderen zijn beter af met de ultieme singles-compilatie Fossil fuel. Of kijken uit naar de echte nieuwe XTC-cd die in het voorjaar de winkels moet bereiken.
XTC: Transistor blast: The best of the BBC sessions (Cooking Vinyl / Bertus * * * )

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Friday, January 1, 1999


A 'Blast' from the past Listening to what was, wondering what might have been for XTC
Dave Ferman
Star-Telegram Writer

There are some performers who make a fan close his or her eyes and wonder what might have been.

What would have happened to the convergence of country and rock, for example, had Gram Parsons lived? Would Led Zeppelin still be together had John Bonham not died?

In the case of XTC, it's not so bad: The English New Wave/pop act remains, after innumerable personnel changes, still a functioning unit. But anyone familiar with the band has to wonder which direction the group might have taken had leader Andy Partridge not had a nervous breakdown while touring the United States in March 1982. The band promptly pulled itself off the road and made a series of wonderful pop records - albeit ones that have grown increasingly infrequent as the years go by.

And it's for this reason alone that the new Transistor Blast CD is worth owning.

It's not a true best-of collection, seeing as only nine of the 51 tracks were recorded after Partridge's problems ended the band's days as a full-fledged touring outfit, and a number of great songs, such as "Dear God" and "The Mayor of Simpleton", are not included. And it's not even the band's first collection, Geffen having put out a collection of B-sides and live cuts, Rag 'N' Bone Buffet, in 1990.

But the four-CD Blast is just that, a blast of intelligent, witty, hook-filled rock 'n' roll - and all of it culled from live performances, either of XTC shows or sessions done for the BBC that were broadcast a few days later.

One hears a very good live band first finding its sea legs on the cuts from 1977, such as "Into the Atom Age", and then, just three years later, fully developing as a thoroughly impressive live act. The fourth disc is a complete concert from late 1980, and it's a gem, a fine display of the bouncy joy and energy of a band that too few of us ever got to see.

And hearing all this reminds us, again, just how darned timeless much of XTC's music is. One part classic Britpop and one part New Wave, theirs was a sound and a particularly, insularly English way of looking at the world that both fell in line with the Buzzcocks and harked back to an early time.

Transistor Blast is not the definitive XTC box - which is, of course, long overdue. But it's one heck of a lot of fun; a casual fan might not need or want it, but no true fan will want to live without it.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Transistor Blast - The Best of The BBC Sessions
1998 - TVT Records

What could be better? A four CD set of live music from a band that's not known for playing live. Disc one and two are tracks culled from several BBC studio sessions. Discs three and four are actually from live concert performances before leader/frontman Andy Partridge had his reported stage fright incident that left XTC to become a non-touring entity.

The journey begins with a John Peel introduction and goes into a perfect presentation of "Life Begins at the Hop" The studio sessions were made at several points along the 1977 to 89 timeline and includes the gems "Ten Feet Tall", "Crosswires", and "Making plans for Nigel." Energy level is high and the musicianship well executed, a trademark of a great BBC recording.

The live recordings were taken from three different concerts that were eventually broadcast on the BBC: disc three is largely from XTC's '78 performance at the Hippodrome with four strangely dispersed tracks from a '79 Paris Theater gig thrown in there for good measure. Now disc four seems to be largely intact - a complete 1980 concert from the Hammersmith Odeon. A flu stricken Partridge leads XTC through an inspired set that includes "Generals and Majors", "Battery Bride", "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Scissor Man."

The quad-disc collection is in beautifully silk-screened neon colored jewel boxes, all together housed in a colorful slipcase that resembles an old transistor radio. The liner notes included is the real review of this set, as both Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding give their insightful take on the concerts and radio sessions that make up Transistor Blast.


The Georgia Straight
December 29, 1998
Reproduced by permission

Reviewed by: Ken Eisner
Transistor Blast

Back in the '80s, a friend of mine--only somewhat admiringly--used to say XTC leader Andy Partridge wrote a lot of great hooks; the problem was, he put 11 of 'em in every song. These days, people don't talk that much about XTC, even though its tuneful, eclectic sound should have had it rivalling Joe Jackson, if not the Police, in Brit-wave, postpunk popularity. This timely boxed set, with three hours of thrilling music on four wide-ranging discs, could change the band's place in history.

At first glance, the box, which is drawn entirely from BBC sessions, looks like a collectors-only affair. There are two discs of studio material recorded between 1977 and 1989, each reprising semihits like "Making Plans for Nigel" and "No Thugs at Our House", and two concert platters from the late-'70s era of "Science Friction" and "Living Through Another Cuba".

The thing is, these versions are not only revelations for people who love the original, Virgin Records takes--they often rival them. The stereo sound is stunningly clear, and on the John Peel studio sessions that comprise half the set, there are no sloppy read-throughs or ragged edges. "Life Begins at the Hop", for example, is given a slower, funkier treatment than on its commercially released equivalent; here, it sounds like the Temptations as re-imagined by Robert Fripp. Even well-honed gems like "Snowman" and "Jason and the Argonauts", from the perfect English Settlement album, sound re-invented on the quick.

At the same time, the live tracks, which find the guys before small, noisy audiences, belie XTC's reputation as studio perfectionists or even fey, reclusive artistes. Thanks to Partridge's legendary stage fright and the Swindon-formed band's short life as a touring entity, some people mistakenly assumed the group couldn't carry off its punk-baroque sound in a live setting. Forget that. On this evidence, they could nail all the tricky changes with fierce intensity; there's even a cover of "All Along the Watchtower" that finds Colin Moulding doing a Tasmanian Devil version of Bob Dylan in the swamp.

In short, the set's as handy an intro to XTC as it is a consolidation of the group's scattered oeuvre. One quibble: the roughly 180 minutes could have fit on three discs with an hour left over. Still, the divisions have some rough integrity to them, and the packaging, which has witty, if ungrammatical, notes from Partridge and Moulding (who call themselves, among other things, "smartarsed Monkee/Beatle/Jetsons"), is some of the most appealing of the season.

[Thanks to Dag Juhlin]

Chicago Daily Herald
December 25, 1998

XTC is back with boxed set 'Transistor'

Mark Guarino
Daily Herald Music Critic

XTC fans haven't had much to chew on in the '90s. Since 1992's Nonsuch, legal problems with Geffen Records stunted their recording. A decade earlier, leader Andy Partridge's stagefright already had stunted their live performances.

But the gates have opened. Transistor [sic], a new four-CD boxed set on TVT Records, signals the punk-turned-pop band's public return. In February, TVT will release their long-awaited new album (titled Apple Venus) while its follow-up is reportedly already in the can.

The new collection of BBC live studio and public performances are rare gems for the band who hasn't performed in front of a concert crowd since 1982. The first two discs collect studio performances starting with the UK band's first year in 1977 and ending with their psychedelic Oranges and Lemons days in 1989.

But it's the second two discs that document XTC live on stage before they retreated to being a strict studio band. With selected songs from different shows throughout '78 and '79, the third disc shows the band's (then including drummer Terry Chambers and organist Barry Andrews) transition from hyper punk group to confident popsters. Hearing the difference between their versions of "Radio's In Motion" (from '78) and "This is Pop" (from '79), the young band's growth is obvious and vast. (Their disastrous cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" in 1978 can be tagged in their history as "learning experience.")

The best reward is found on disc four, a complete concert from London's Hammermith Palais in 1980. Opening for reggae band Steel Pulse, the band is at their height both as wildly expressive performers and songwriters.

Just two years before Partridge's nervous breakdown, those days would be numbered.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

SoundBites: Album Review Package
By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Reuters) - A quick look at some of what's new in the record racks. Albums are rated according to the following scale:
5 stars....Buy it now
4 stars....Buy it at your leisure
3 stars....Borrow a friend's copy first
2 stars....Only for devotees
1 star.....Barely worth a first listen
No stars...Read a book instead

Transistor Blast
* * * 1/2

The not-so-subtle joke that underscores these four discs of live recordings is that XTC hasn't toured since 1982, due to frontman Andy Partridge's stage fright. That's too bad, since this set -- comprising BBC performances from 1977-89 -- reminds us that the British popsters were a pretty potent live unit, willing to stretch out and improvise while punching out catchy blasts of sound such as “This is Pop,” “Love at First Sight,” “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Life Begins at the Hop” and “Generals and Majors.” The sheer girth and redundancies of Transistor Blast makes it of greatest interest to ardent fans and collectors, but even casual XTC listeners, particularly those drawn in by studio confections like Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons, are likely to find something revelatory in this generous slice of XTC's live attack.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Het Nieuwsblad
18 december 1998
door Hans-Maarten POST

Box met BBC-sessies van XTC

XTC in een doosje

Er waren eerder al cd's van The Beatles en Led Zeppelin om ons erop te wijzen. Dit Transistor blast komt het nog eens aantonen: de Britse omroep BBC moet over een verduiveld rijk archief beschikken. Transistor blast is een box met vier cd's waarin radiosessies en live-concerten verzameld worden die het Britse XTC voor de BBC gaf. XTC, dat groepje van een beetje klassiek geworden popsingles als Making plans for Nigel, Senses working overtime en Dear God.

Fans scheuren nu al met trillende vingers de kalenderblaadjes: voor maart volgend jaar staat er eindelijk een nieuwe XTC-plaat aangekondigd. Eindelijk, ja, want de groep van Andy Partridge heeft eerst een half decennium gestaakt om van een wurgend platencontract af te komen, en heeft er, na het betalen van het definitieve losgeld voor zichzelf (de verzamelaar Fossil fuel), ook nog eens lang over gedaan om een nieuwe platenfirma te vinden, en een nieuwe cd af te maken.

Het aftellen wordt er ieder geval iets draaglijker op gemaakt met deze cd-box, ook al verschenen stukken ervan al eerder op cd. Transistor blast bestaat uit twee cd's met „studiosessies” (dus zonder publiek opgenomen) en twee cd's met live-concerten (mét publiek).

De radiosessies omspannen de periode 1977 tot 1989. Het wil zeggen dat „vroeg” werk op die twee cd's afgewisseld wordt met „later” materiaal. Klinkt het vroege werk vooral charmant, dan heeft veel van het latere werk de tand des tijds beter doorstaan, en komt het hier vaak ook nog veel levendiger over dan de originele opnamen. Het blijft genieten van sterke versies van nummers als No thugs in our house, Jason and the Argonauts, This world over en Another satellite.


De live-opnamen komen uit 1978/79 (cd drie) en 1980 (cd vier). Op de eerste live-cd hoor je een groep die nog maar net vijftien maand samen was. Naïef klinkend, ja, maar je staat absoluut versteld van de energie die uit de boxen komt gespat. Wat een enthousiasme. En je vraagt je af, als je voorman Andy Partridge bezig hoort, hoe het kan dat iemand die ooit zo gretig klonk, later vanwege een niet te overwinnen plankenkoorts, niet meer op een podium durfde.

Op cd vier hoor je een groep die het springerige new wave-achtige ontgroeid is, en op zoek is naar meer. Een zoektocht die uiteindelijk zou leiden tot de dubbelelpee English settlement, uit 1982. Alleen: de groep is er op dat moment (1980) nog niet.

Het is één van de mindere kantjes van deze box: dat al het live-werk uit die vroege periode komt. Het had het overzicht vollediger gemaakt als er ook op de twee live-cd's materiaal uit het English settlement-tijdperk had gestaan. Vooral omdat er daarna geen XTC-tour meer is geweest. Maar wellicht waren er uit die periode geen BBC-opnamen beschikbaar.

Pluspunten? De opnamekwaliteit is over heel de lijn uitstekend. En is de box al mooi, de vier cd's apart zien er ook nog eens fraai uit. Voorts is dit, zoals met de meeste boxen het geval is, natuurlijk in de eerste plaats voer voor fans.

XTC „Transistor blast” (Cooking Vinyl/Bertus; 4 cd's) (7/10).

The Kansas City Star
Friday, December 18, 1998



These best-ofs make the best-music gift list
Some classic, some not-so-classic CDs will be sure to please

If you need some gift ideas for the music lover with discriminating tastes, try any of these fairly new, road-less-traveled compilations.

XTC, Transistor Blast: When they were on, XTC delivered some of the most splendid, innovative music in pop history. This four-disc set, a mix of live and studio material, will please the die-hards, especially those who never saw the band live, but it has plenty of pure pop moments for newcomers.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Los Angeles Daily News Wednesday, December 16, 1998



Two of our critics, Fred Shuster and Glenn Whipp, put on their headphones and made their choices of some of the best CD box sets out there.

Fred Shuster's picks

Transistor Blast, XTC (TVT, four CDs; $45). One of the cleverest Britpop bands to emerge from the punk and new wave explosion of the late '70s, XTC was known for tense, syncopated riffs and lushly arranged, hook-laden pop gems. Titled after a lyric from the 1978 single, "This Is Pop," the 52-track box set features a treasure trove of tunes culled from BBC Radio vaults and performance tapes. Highlights here include "I'm Bugged," "Life Begins at the Hop," "Generals and Majors," "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Science Friction." Incidentally, XTC's first new record in seven years, Apple Venus Vol. 1, is due in February.

Copyright 1998
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 16, 1998

XTC: Back From the Dead-Letter Office
Mark Jenkins
Special to The Washington Post

The relative obscurity of XTC is sometimes presented as one of rock's great unsolved mysteries. Even though the British trio has been permanently relegated to cult status, however, its bouncy, tuneful music has not gone unheard; such songs as "Senses Working Overtime" and "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" are well known to alt-rock listeners. Still, over the years the band's inability to produce million-selling albums has led to its estrangement from various record companies. After a productive '80s, XTC has released only one album of new material in the '90s.

Now the band has signed to alphabetically compatible American independent label TVT, an alliance marked by yet another release from the vaults. Transistor Blast is a four-CD boxed set of material recorded for the BBC, either live in the studio or in a concert hall. The collection may please XTC loyalists, but it's a dubious introduction for novices. Though the set includes tracks recorded as recently as 1989, it concentrates on the band's early years; the two concert discs come from only three showsin 1978, 1979 and 1980. (The '79 show was XTC's last with keyboardist Barry Andrews, who went on to found the edgier, funkier Shriekback.)

Much more recent live recordings are nonexistent, because XTC--in one of its many commercially dubious decisions--abandoned touring in 1982. The band captured onstage for Transistor Blast is a jumpy new wave quartet that essentially no longer exists. The pastoral, '60s-rooted sound XTC developed after Andrews's departure is largely missing from this compilation, as are many of the group's best-loved tunes.

Although XTC's albums are inconsistent, songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have penned several dozen first-rate songs, so the absence of such later compositions as "Dear God" (perhaps their best-known song in the United State) is not fatal. The set still offers charmers like "Life Begins at the Hop," "Another Satellite" and "Making Plans for Nigel," which bring the music-hall-rock style of the Beatles and the Kinks into a more rhythmically conscious '80s context. Transistor Blast provides an incomplete picture of XTC's accomplishments, but it's an effective teaser for the album of new material long denied to the band's devoted fans.

Copyright 1998, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Boston Herald
Sunday, December 13, 1998


Boxed sets in '98 are gorgeous inside and out
Larry Katz

Sure, CD boxed sets make great holiday gifts. But if you're a music fiend, admit it: You want 'em for yourself.

Boxed sets are hard to resist. They look good. They even feel good: There's a sensual thrill in holding one of these hefty, expensive rectangles, knowing it's filled with hours of music and, more likely than not, a short book's worth of reading material and photographs - this is where the art directors of the music industry get their chance to show off.

Of course, to be successful, the music inside the box must be as monumental as the presentation. This year that is often the case. Ten years after Eric Clapton's Crossroads launched the phenomenon, boxed sets have come of age. While you still find some that are merely familiar albums repackaged with a dusting of bonus cuts, or greatest-hits collections bulked up with dubious rarities, most of this year's box crop consists of smartly assembled labors of love designed for lasting listening.

XTC, Transistor Blast

(TVT) * * *

A collection of previously unreleased live recordings from the wonderfully quirky British pop band known for its infrequent live performances. Two CDs cover live-in-studio recordings made for BBC broadcasts from 1977 to 1989; two other discs cover concerts from 1978 to 1980.

Copyright 1998
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Sunday, December 13, 1998

Bill Ellis The Commercial Appeal
record review

Forget the Twelve Days of Christmas. Give me the Twelve Boxes, as in boxed CD sets.

-- XTC, Transistor Blast (TVT, 4 CDs, * * * 1/2 ).
XTC fans will be happy to know that the band has recently signed to TVT with two albums planned for next year. In the meantime, enjoy this collection of BBC sessions spanning 1977-1989 and packaged in a transistor radio box. While the music will be familiar to those who have the studio albums, some of these versions are superior, such as a John Peel-produced cut of Life Begins at the Hop. And for a band that stopped playing live due to leader Andy Partridge's stage fright, the concert stuff here is wickedly good, especially disc three, a 1980 show at the Hammersmith Palais that was also issued in the early '90s on ROIR. The most underrated, underexposed band of the last 20 years? Yes, and as Transistor Blast reminds us, among the most overly creative as well. With the '80s currently in vogue, one can only hope XTC finally gets its Garden of Earthly Delights due.

Copyright 1998
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Boston Globe
December 11, 1998, Friday, City Edition

XTC hits with an edge
British innovators' genius shows in the box

By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff

More than 20 years ago, before there were raves and designer drugs, there was this English pop band, XTC. Speaking with the Globe six years ago, singer-guitarist Andy Partridge explained the genesis of the moniker and how he came to loathe it.

"I picked the name because I thought it was a pictogram for the group in 1975. It was short, sharp, shocking. It was immediate gratification and wonderfulness. The letters were the right shape. It leapt out in print." Alas, Partridge soon came to believe "we were stuck with one of those classic 'punny' names that are great fun for a week and then you think, 'Why did we choose that name?' You sober up and go 'Oh no! We're called that?'"

Ah, but Partridge and his sole remaining XTC mate, singer-bassist Colin Moulding, can rest easy. XTC, which has just released a 52-track, four-CD box set called Transistor Blast (TVT, $44.99), has weathered the storms of time well. They are one of the hip influences to cite in the modern rock world (see: Baby Ray) and there is an added air of mystery about them because . . . well, they essentially pulled the plug on themselves as a live band in 1982 following Partridge's nervous breakdown, sparked by his stage fright. (They did play acoustic radio gigs in 1989 - some of those tracks surface here.)

There is nothing like a disappearing act to foster a myth. Consider this, too: They went on what you might call a strike in 1992, following their last studio disc, Nonsuch. Throughout the decade, they'd attempted to extricate themselves from what they saw as a draconian contract with Virgin. (They're out of it - finally; XTC releases an album of new material early next year, Apple Venus on TVT.)

The early XTC had a string of hits in England and made a couple of dents in new wave America with "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Making Plans for Nigel." Now, the term "new wave" is most often spoken with disdain. People think of silly costumes, garish videos, and diluted punk rock. The best of new wave, however, took punk's energy and lashed to it an inventive spirit - melodically, rhythmically, harmonically - that gave the music a complex resonance that went beyond punk's heavy hammer. This is where XTC lived during its 1977-1982 heyday, and it's where they live again on Transistor Blast, culled from concerts and BBC radio sessions over the years. (XTC made 15 albums and some very strong work exists post-'82, especially the English Settlement album.)

Though recorded live, these Transistor takes are crisp, uncluttered, almost pristine - without being antiseptic. The discs are not peppered with pointless call-and-response queries from the band or riddled with gone-bonkers applause from the crowd. It's all very well mannered. Writes Partridge in the booklet that accompanies the CD package, of the first BBC concert disc: "The audience, being allowed to eavesdrop by a stern but kindly auntie, never seemed to be given permission to 'get into it.'"

XTC took naturally its oddball status. The band was too pop for punk, too quirky for power pop; too giddy for post-punk, too sly for the New Romantic movement.

As such, none of what XTC, which then included guitarist Dave Gregory and keyboardist Barry Andrews, has recorded here sounds dated or quaint or, God forbid, stereotypically new wavey. XTC has always gone for the baroque, the detailed, in as much as did the Beatles 'round about Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper. XTC plied this trade before any psychedelic revival took hold. Add to this off-kilter framework a certain wry, arch, very English sensibility not unlike the Kinks' Ray Davies. The result is a slew of multiply hooked, clever pop-rock songs made by guys who knew enough about the rule book to toss it away when called for.

Partridge has likened that early period to XTC being sorcerer's apprentices, lucky enough to work in an alchemist's kitchen. On the other end of that, we're lucky to have these artifacts. No dust on 'em at all.

Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The San Diego Union-Tribune
December 10, 1998, Thursday

TVT Records
* 1/2

The music of XTC has been repackaged more often than a pass-along Christmas gift. Over the past 15 years, the British band has been the subject of at least six live, greatest-hits or b-sides anthologies.

It's not that XTC is undeserving of all the attention. Since the late '70s, when the band bopped onto the post-punk scene, its quirky brand of Beatle-esque pop has been consistently interesting and influential.

But this four-disc set, compiled from live BBC broadcasts and concerts, has little that is fresh or revelatory. The material on at least one of the discs was released in an earlier incarnation, and there are no songs the devoted XTC fan hasn't heard before.

There are, to be fair, plenty of good tracks, including such staples as "Making Plans for Nigel," "Generals and Majors" and "Life Begins at the Hop." Those songs, though, tend to be milked for all they're worth: "Nigel," "Hop" and "This Is Pop" are all repeated in different versions. And precious little is drawn from what many consider the band's best album to date, Skylarking.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Chicago Sun-Times
Sunday, December 6, 1998


Box sets offer merry measures
But for the serious aficionados, good choices fewer than in past

JIM DeROGATIS; Lloyd Sachs; Kevin M. Williams

If you're a pop music fan dreaming of a bounty of box sets under the Christmas tree to rival Yuletides past, you might be a bit disappointed come this Dec. 25.

With a few truly noteworthy exceptions, the major labels have finally succeeded in emptying the vaults of rock reissues, as evidenced by the scarcity of boxes in that genre in 1998. The situation is a bit more cheerful in the jazz and classical realms, though it's only a matter of time before everything that can be repackaged and boxed in those styles has been as well.

Of course, just because what was once a flood of new box sets has been reduced to a trickle, that doesn't mean the older boxes are out of print (most of them remain available) or an enterprising gift giver can't make up his or her own "box set" by choosing a selection of catalog albums and wrapping 'em up under a big, bright bow.

Got a lover of the swing revival on your Christmas list? Why not buy a selection of Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman discs and make your own swing box? Or how about a '70s punk box set? Group together key releases by the Clash, Sex Pistols, Ramones and New York Dolls. The possibilities are endless if you think of it that way.

Meanwhile, here are the Sun-Times critics' assessments of this year's new box sets (some of which have already been reviewed upon release).


XTC, Transistor Blast (TVT, $49.99) * * * 1/2

The reclusive pop geniuses of Swindon, England, haven't been heard from since 1992's Nonsuch. XTC was never willing to compromise its vision, so major labels simply steered clear of the band, even after its late-career revival with the unlikely hit "Dear God." Although its music always has been delightfully accessible and effervescent, equaling the best of the Beatles, radio always has been somewhat wary. XTC was just too good.

It's ironic, then, that the group's first offering on its new label, TVT, is a four-CD set consisting of BBC recordings, packaged in a box that resembles a radio. It's titled Transistor Blast after a line from the new wave-era song, "This Is Pop."

Concentrating primarily on the group's early years, the set includes most of Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's strongest songs up through the mid-'80s, recorded live for various radio broadcasts. These include hyper new wave anthems such as "Life Begins at the Hop," "Meccanic Dancing" and "Making Plans for Nigel" - all from the XTC equivalent of the Meet the Beatles era - as well as "No Thugs in Our House," "Jason and the Argonauts" and a wealth of other material from 1984's wonderful English Settlement album, the group's psychedelic, Revolver-like high point.

Fans and new initiates alike will find plenty of reasons to cheer here, not to mention the fact that two new XTC albums are coming from TVT early in the new year.

Copyright 1998
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Wall of Sound
December 1, 1998

XTC: Transistor Blast


Rating: 72  Transistor Blast

 Label: TVT

 Genre: Alternative

 File Under: Life begins at the hop

Despite its middling record sales, particularly on this side of the Atlantic, XTC is one of the more intriguing bands to emerge from Great Britain's class of '87. Like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and, most obviously, the Beatles, the group pursues a balance between earnest popcraft and unpredictable quirkiness; for every tight, fully realized tune such as "Life Begins at the Hop," "Radios in Motion" and "This Is Pop," there's a whirling sonic adventure like "Science Friction" or "New Town Animal in a Furnished Cage."

Sometimes XTC may drift off the mark, but then it delivers a gem like "Making Plans for Nigel," or the entire 1986 Skylarking album, that brings the two worlds together and reminds us of XTC's import to the greater pop scene. Due to contract battles, the group has been somewhat moribund since 1992's uneven Nonsuch, releasing a series of archival albums such as Rag & Bone Buffet, the British Fossil Fuel singles collection, and Upsy Daisy Assortment for the U.S. (An album of new material is expected in January.)

Now comes Transistor Blast, a four-CD set of BBC radio performances that's somewhat ironic given that XTC hasn't toured in a good decade and a half, and it's likely there's an entire generation of fans -- no matter how sparse -- that have no concept of XTC as a live act. Transistor Blast is a welcome reminder, then, that XTC could indeed take to the boards and rock the rafters with its own brand of manic energy that held its own with any of its New Wave counterparts.

The first two discs are drawn from assorted in-studio programs broadcast between 1977-89, hosted by John Peel and Kid Jensen; these feature nicely re-created versions of "Life Begins at the Hop," "Scarecrow People," "Making Plans for Nigel," "The Rhythm," "Real by Reel," "Cross Wires" and others, with a nice emphasis on album tracks rather than the expected singles. More potent are the third and fourth discs, recorded in more "proper" concert settings, in theaters and in front of crowds, for the BBC's Sight & Sound and In Concert programs early in the group's career, when Barry Andrews' keyboards and then Dave Gregory's keyboards and second guitar brought additional texture and dimension to the group's sound. Both discs are fiery and careening; check out Sight & Sound's halting, ska-tinged cover of "All Along the Watchtower" from March 1978 for a sense of how fearless (and engagingly sloppy) XTC could be onstage. The In Concert tracks, recorded at the end of 1980, find a somewhat more sophisticated XTC, stretching out and improvising more ("Towers of London") but still punching out catchy blasts of sound such as "This Is Pop," "Love at First Sight," and "Generals and Majors."

The sheer girth of Transistor Blast -- two versions each of "This Is Pop," "Making Plans for Nigel," and "Life Begins at the Hop," for instance -- makes the set of greatest interest to ardent fans and collectors, but even casual XTC listeners, particularly those drawn in by studio confections such as Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons, are likely to find something revelatory in this generous slice of XTC's live attack.

-- Gary Graff

Copyright © 1998 Starwave Corporation. All rights reserved.

Cox News Service
November 25, 1998
For the holidays: Boxed Sets
BYLINE: Steve Dollar, Shane Harrison, Doug Hamilton, Bo Emerson Russ DeVault, and Kathy Janich

For the Holidays: Boxed Sets

One of the staples of the holiday consumer binge, boxed sets of CDs devoted to a particular artist or style of music make for impressive "oooohs" and "ahhhhs" once the gift-wrapping comes off. Record companies love them because the collections usually recycle previously released --- or, at least, previously paid for --- recordings, and can sometimes generate a fresh burst of interest in their subject. Fans love them because, well, what fan wouldn't want a snazzily packaged survey of a favorite rock singer or jazz guitarist, with a small novel's worth of critical notes and interviews, and the songs remastered with the latest digital gewgaws? Here's a glance at a batch of recent boxed set releases, with tips about what makes each unique(or not):

POP "Transistor Blast" XTC. TVT. 51 tracks. (four CDs). Grade: B- Retail price: $ 44.99 Bonus factor: Many previously unreleased performances.

A gathering of live recordings from a band that was never fond of performing live might seem an iffy proposition. Two of these discs are concert recordings from 1978-79 and a powerful set at London's Hammersmith Palais in December 1980, when the band's pop confections still had a punky edge. After calling a halt to roadwork in 1982, the trio still made live-in-the-studio appearances on radio, including John Peel's popular BBC show. The other two discs document those sessions from 1977-89. Entertaining, if less than essential. --- Shane Harrison

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

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