1980 - 2007
XTC: Apple Venus Volume 1 - February 19, 1999
XTC: The Big Express - October 15, 1984
XTC: Black Sea - December 13, 1980
XTC: "Cherry In Your Tree" - March 28, 1994
Martin Newell: The Greatest Living Englishman - December 6, 1993
XTC: "Mayor Of Simpleton" - February 10, 1989
XTC: Mummer - January 30, 1984
XTC: Nonsuch - May 1, 1992
XTC: Oranges & Lemons - February 24, 1989
The Dukes of Stratosphear: Psonic Psunspot - August 28, 1987
XTC: Rag & Bone Buffet - August 2, 1991
XTC: Skylarking - December 19, 1986
Andy Partridge/Harold Budd: Through The Hill - July 25, 1994
XTC: Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2 - May 15, 2000

Self-Editing: Andy Partridge Gets Away From the ABCs of XTC with Moonstrance - May 2007
The Seven Years War - February 1999
In My Life - Soldier Boy - September 14, 2000

XTC DVD Postponed by Virgin Records - November 5, 2003
TVT Hopes to Tempt Old and New Audiences with XTC's "Apple" - February 1, 1999
Dear God - February 27, 1987

© 2005 CMJ Network, Inc.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue 605 - February 19, 1999

Apple Venus
Volume 1
A nasty contract war with an ex-label put XTC on ice for seven years, ultimately costing Apple Venus one of her limbs when Dave Gregory left before the album's completion. The long-awaited album, however, emerges as a ray of light after all that foul weather. Focusing on acoustic instruments and symphonic arrangements, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have created an album of refined ambition, employing detailed and decorous arrangements while taking care not glop too much make-up on the songs' pretty faces. The playful, galloping "I'd Like That" ranks with Partridge's most hummable ditties, while the adventurous "River Of Orchids" shows a new wrinkle in his genius, crisscrossing three nursery rhyme melodies atop a pulsing score. Moulding's music-hall musings on small-town suburbia ("Fruit Nut" and "Frivolous Tonight") owe as much to Rodgers/Hammerstein as they do to Lennon/McCartney. While XTC's snap-crackle electric guitar work has made way for more "grown-up" instrumentation on Apple Venus, Partridge's toothy wit has not been filed down; the scathing "Your Dictionary" will make you very glad indeed that you are not the former Mrs. Partridge.
- Steve Ciabattoni

[Thanks to Perry]

© 1999 College Media Inc.
CMJ New Music Report - February 1, 1999
TVT Hopes to Tempt Old and New Audiences with XTC's "Apple."
by Steve Ciabattoni

When XTC released in Nonsuch (Geffen) in 1992, it was already a veteran band raging against a younger alternative tidal wave. Still, its stinging, satirical songs like "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" helped secure the band's position as masters of intricate pop (the album peaked at #3 on CMJ's Radio top 200). Due in large part to a bitter legal battle with its former U.K. label, Virgin Records, XTC has been silent for much of the 90s. But a new deal with TVT Records in America aims to keep its legend alive.

Prior to the February 23rd release of Apple Venus Volume 1, XTC's first studio album in seven years, TVT released Transistor Blast, a four-CD box set of live BBC recordings. Compared with the wiry, electric edge of the early recordings from Transistor Blast, Apple Venus shows just how far XTC (now just the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding) has come since forming in 1976 in Swindon, England. Partridge describes Apple Venus as an "orchustic" record, as it is built almost exclusively on acoustic instruments with symphonic backing. "I don't think there's any self-hypnosis involved here," Partridge says, "but I think it's the best stuff we've done".

"The refined, acoustic nature of Apple Venus usually frightens record label people," jokes Paul Burgess, TVT's VP of Marketing and Sales. "But with a songwriter as great as Andy, and knowing how XTC has changed with the years, [I knew] if anyone could do it, Andy and Colin could."

As a long-time fan, Burgess is excited and flattered to work with the band, but he is not blind to the obstacles ahead. "The fact that they've been around a while and that the marketplace has changed a lot since they last recorded [present some challenges]," Burgess admits. But Burgess is also encouraged by the overall quality of the album. In fact, TVT is working on deals with stereo manufacturers to feature the Apple Venus CD as a demonstration disc for their high-end audio systems.

"I think this record has an appeal to a much wider audience than many people would perceive," Burgess says. "There's a really charming innocence about it. You listen to these love songs and you're amazed by the simplicity of them, which to me has a kinship to a lot of indie rock that's out there."

TVT is hoping that XTC's legend (and ironically, its long hiatus) will spark a fresh interest in the band. "I think we'll pick up a lot of new fans with this record, says Burgess. "There's a hip factor in that they haven't been around."

Led by the bouncy first single "I'd Like That," the initial promotion and marketing plans for Apple Venus are aimed at Triple A radio and heritage Alternative radio (with an add date of February 16). The duo will also embark on a nationwide promotional tour, visiting retail and radio in an effort to expand its audience. Fans hoping to see the band play live shouldn't hold their collective breath--XTC hasn't toured since 1982. However, the Bravo cable network is planning to air a special about Partridge and Moulding's work on Apple Venus Volume 2, a new electric record due in late 1999.

[Thanks to Dave O'Connell]

CMJ New Music Report - Issue 107, Dec 19, 1986

As XTC falls ever-deeper into Beatles-inspired pop, they get better and better at it. Taking cues from the post-Rubber Soul era, Skylarking features clean but dense production (again courtesy of Todd Rundgren) that is both eclectic and accessible, using horns, strings and swirling textures. Andy Partridge's lyrics are slightly cosmic ("The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul") and often consciously humorous ("That's Really Super, Supergirl"); at his best he's one of our finest songwriters. Skylarking's best are "Grass" (which segues out of "Summer's Cauldron," the eerie LP opener), a paean to drugged-out summer pleasures; "Dying," where death is confronted and rebuked; "The Meeting Place," "Big Day" and "Ballet For A Rainy Day."

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 112 - Feb 27, 1987
“Dear God”
Heavy stateside reaction to the import B-side version of this non-LP track (especially on KROQ, 91X and WLIR, where it has lit up request lines) has Geffen releasing this 12" and re-releasing the Skylarking LP to include it. "Dear God" is a moving, child-like plea for God to prove its existence and clean up the world's mess, done in XTC's increasingly catchy Beatlesque (circa the white album) pop style. The clincher is having a child sing the opening verse and the closing words. Should be a hit on college, AOR and eventually CHR. The 12" also contains two LP tracks ("Earn Enough For Us" and "Grass") as well as the funky, non-LP bonus track "Extrovert."

CMJ New Music Report - Issue 51 - Oct 15, 1984

The Big Express

Here we go again. . . Sigh. Andy Partridge has once again come forth with another mostly brilliant XTC album, as usual fully deserving of critical acceptance (certified herewith) and massive airplay (wishful thinking). This time around we're particularly intrigued by "This World Over" (a Police-ish ballad that could be a hit), "Wake Up" (wild production and sharp lyrics), "I Remember The Sun" (another almost-hit), "All You Pretty Girls" (best for AOR), and "Liarbird" (upbeat and cynical). The remainder, for those inclined, are more exploratory and wild. Let's hope for the best-maybe this time around justice will be served.

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 360 - Dec 6, 1993
The Greatest Living Englishman - PIPELINE

Welshman Martin Newell, an off-again, on-again songwriter and accomplished poet, sent off a couple of demo tracks to XTC's Andy Partridge. Partridge (who's recently broken his stage silence via a one-song cameo with Aimee Mann in New York) was so taken with the tape, he offered to produce and perform a handful of the backing tracks. It doesn't take a huge XTC fan to realize that Newell is a huge XTC fan. The song structures on The Greatest Living Englishman could well be XTC B-sides (or Jellyfish A-sides for that matter), replicating familiar (and very British) melodies and chord structures. However, Partridge's production (at times stark and refreshingly homespun) along with Newell's generally strong text keeps these songs from drifting into Rutle-land, ever to be forgotten as McCartney mimicry gone wrong. Great pop songs and great peeks into everyday English living: "Before The Hurricane," "A Street Called Prospect," "Goodbye Dreaming Fields," "Straight To You Boy" and the title track.
- Steve Ciabattoni

CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 125 - Aug 28, 1987
Psonic Psunspot - Geffen

The Dukes will get by with a little help from their fans, and Psonic Psunspot's quasi-blatancy in dealing with their other hobby (XTC) could give these blokes a career of their own. Unlike 25 O'Clock, the Dukes' debut EP with its strawberry-wristband production, Psunspot might as well be an XTC record set in the '60s. The Dukes are riding a retro wave that they helped to create, so rather than letting their altered egos be dismissed as a cute hoax, Sir John Johns (a.k.a. Andy Partridge) and his Lonely Hearts Club Band reflect on that era without being regressive. Although John Leckie (here, Swami Anand Nagara) remains as producer, the Dukes have said it's time the love bomb was dropped-time to sell records to more than just the XTC fan club. Dissecting this LP is a chore, as these guys borrow from everywhere, including the Beach Boys' vocal harmonies and layered production ("Pale And Precious") and loads from the Beatles songbook (the tin pan alley piano and oompa-doompa tuba of "Obla-Di Obla-Da" on "You're A Good Man Albert Brown," the "I'm Only Sleeping" guitar on "Shiny Cage," lots more), incorporating all into the unmistakable bent pop whirlybird of XTC. So drown yourself in the paisley ocean of love, and eat your lifesaver. Top cuts: "Vanishing," "You're My Drug," "Braniac's Daughter."

CMJ New Music Report - Nov 05 2003
Virgin Records has recently halted the release of For Vidiots Only, a DVD comprised of videos, live footage, and extras of the band XTC. Now on Idea Records, the release's stalemate is a result of Virgin's unwillingness to negotiate an older contract with the band, and update it into the twenty-first century. Releasing albums since the late '70s, XTC put out Coat of Many Covers in 2002 on Virgin, which represents the bands career from 1977 to 1992 in four discs. In addition, frontman Andy Partridge has just written a theme song for “Wonderfalls,” a new TV series on Fox.

© 2004 CMJ Network, Inc.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 389 - Jul 25, 1994
Through The Hill

Through The Hill is neither the pop wizardry of XTC's Andy Partridge backed by the minimal piano tones of Harold Budd, nor the improbable musical middle ground between those two. A primarily instrumental project sprung from the titles of illustrations found in antiquated texts, Through The Hill may seem it'd be conceptually pretentious, but the results are surprisingly inoffensive. Track titles like "Well For The Sweat Of The Moon," "Bronze Coins Showing Genitals" and "Missing Pieces To the Game Of Salt And Onyx" seem overbearingly high-concept, but the majority of the tracks are warm, pastoral and inventive. The meandering and warbling pieces featuring sensuous Hammond organ are particularly welcome, reminiscent of the best moments from Robert Wyatt or former Budd collaborator Brian Eno. If Through The Hill seems fragmented, it's because it's based upon fragments, rough sketches and bits of unearthed archeological paraphernalia. The duo's often perverse arrangements and spooky snippets of percussion made by bells, gongs and other assorted oddities help keep the pieces from drifting off into new age drivel.
- Steve Ciabattoni

CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 373 - Mar 28, 1994

"Cherry In Your Tree"
Carmen Sandiego Out Of This World

XTC's Andy Partridge has dabbled in nursery rhyme lyrics, so it's no surprise that XTC has contributed this clever track to a soundtrack for the popular kids show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. Described by Partridge as "the bastard son of `Yummy Yummy'," "Cherry In Your Tree," with its double entendres about pies, cherries and kneading dough, is not exactly a "kid's" song. As with any good nursery rhyme, there's a hidden story somewhere, so listen closely and look for a new XTC LP coming in late winter.
- Steve Ciabattoni

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

CMJ New Music - February 1999

The Seven Years War

XTC ends its strike with a revealing book, a four-CD set of live BBC recordings, and a new studio album.

by Steve Ciabattoni

After the success of 1992's Nonsuch, XTC went to Virgin Records (its home in the UK) and pitched ideas for new projects and asked if it coudn't have a better contract, please. After all, the band had been with the label longer than Richard Branson! Virgin yawned and XTC went on strike for five years.

"I thought, 'We'll just keep stockpiling [songs] and they're gonna let us go one day,'" says chief songwriter Andy Partridge.

"The worst thing," says Colin Moulding, "was they had some of Andy's songs. They were going to use that as a bargaining position to get what they could before we left."

"Everyone said, 'This is the end of you, everyone's gonna forget you,'" says Partridge. "'You'll never get a record deal because no one will be interested in a has-been band.'"

Not making records left time for Partridge, Moulding and bandmate Dave Gregory to chat with Journalist Neville Farmer for his book Song Stories, an XTC fetishist's delight, loaded with interviews that get to the bones of every XTC song ("Pink Thing" is about Andy's penis and his son, for those who care). "Neville has this thing where he tries to belittle you in a way," says the soft-spoken Moulding. "A lot of the song titles we discussed with him in a positive way and he'd wrap it up in a negative way," he says, later flipping through the book to point out a backhanded phrase.

"I like the fact that it's sort of beautifully flawed," says Partridge, explaining that none of the interviews were airbrushed. "And there's a few surprises," he continues. "Because you think, 'Blimey! Did Dave really think that?'"

Partridge took another dive into the past when the BBC sent over tapes that would make up Transistor Blast (TVT), a four-CD collection of live performances, including a complete 1980 concert. "Enough time - enough phlegm - has gone under the bridge to listen to this old naive, energy-packed stuff," says Partridge. "I kind of enjoyed it. There was something kind of thrilling in the sort of playful violence of it all - exhilarating in a kind of idiot way."

Other things filling Partridge's time during the strike were an illness, a burst eardrum and a bitter divorce. XTC finally inked a new deal and began recording Apple Venus Vol. 1 (due in February on TVT), but there were to be two more casualties. Producer Haydn Bendall couldn't finish the project and waved goodbye, and Dave Gregory decided he'd had enough of not having enough input and left the band. The album was finished by Partridge and Moulding using everything from Colin's front room to Abbey Road Studios.

"With this record there was a kind of air of middle-aged desperation," says Partridge. The long struggle and the pressue of not having made a record for years had its impact. "There was a greater expectation [for me] building up to doing Apple Venus than there was building up to the very first album that we did," says Partridge, clenching his teeth to drive the point home.

Apple Venus is primarily acoustic and seasoned with the orchestrations that recall the highlights of Nonsuch and Skylarking, though somehow more modest and more ambitious at the same time. The "push your car from of [sic] the road" nursery rhyme "River Of Orchids" is a clever crisscross of three cyclical melodies that comes off like Philip Glass writing pop tunes. "I think the record is going to surprise people," says Partridge. "They'll probably think it's really middle-of-the-road or dead square."

No one, however, could consider "Your Dictionary" a middle-of-the-road song. For all the bile Partridge has for his former label and the music business in general ("It's the devil's asshole of an industry," he says with an all-too-knowing grin), it's nothing compared to the venom spilled in the song towards his ex-wife. "It was written in a real rage when I was a cuckolded husband," he notes bluntly. "I believed in it for five minutes, but when I got a bit happier about the situation I begain to feel a bit embarassed by the lyrics thinking, 'Oh, that's a bit petulant.'" The unflinching ditty makes "How Do You Sleep?" (the Lennon swipe at McCartney) sound like "Wind Beneath My Wings." Choice lyric: "F-U-C-K, is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?" Partridge concluded, "My relationship with my ex-wife is not great but I know when she hears this -- the shit's really gonna fly."

[Transcribed by Ben Gott.]

CMJ New Music Report - Issue 32, Jan 30, 1984

Finally! Mummer has found a home at Geffen, and college radio's darlings (three consecutive number one LPs), forever itching to explode in America, may now have a fighting chance. Mummer is the simplest and most cohesive LP so far from a complex and eccentric band. Simple virtues are praised on "Love On A Farmboy's Wages" and "Great Fire" -- the former may be Andy Partridge's loveliest pop tune ever, the latter his grandest expression of passion. The first U.S. single is Colin Moulding's "Wonderland," a gorgeous ballad about the horrors of wealth. "Ladybird" and the Beatlesque "In Loving Memory Of A Name" are also possible hits. Fans of the more esoteric side of XTC should check out "Human Alchemy" and "Funk Pop A Roll," a scathing attack on the record industry. Play them all -- let's go for four #1s in a row.

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue 282, May 1, 1992

A bit of regal lore by way of introduction: The album's title was the name of a fabled fantasy palace built on the monarchal whim of King Henry VIII, a dream home of which nary a trace remains today-what was once nonesuch as in "without equal" has hence become literally "none such" as in "nonexistent." To create their tenth full LP (reportedly delayed for the bulk of three years merely to aggravate a pesky U.K. A & R rep), Messrs Partridge, Moulding, Gregory and Mattacks have dipped their quills into the inkwells of several XTCs past and present, fashioning a fantastic, chimerical specimen out of pieces, parts and portions of all the others. A brief tour of the palace's many rooms: Shades of Skylarking waft through "Humble Daisy" and "My Bird Performs," while "Crocodile" and "The Ugly Underneath" would fit snugly into the scenery of Drums And Wires, and it sounds as though the protagonist of "Dear Madam Barnum" lives in the same town where Oranges And Lemons' "Mayor Of Simpleton" holds office. Other standouts include "Holly Up On Poppy" (Partridge's daughter on her rocking horse) and "Rook." Best Brian Wilson-ism: "Wrapped In Grey." Best couplet: "All Edward leared/Then she appeared." The joy of Nonsuch is that each listener will probably find his or her own personal favorite XTC inside the album's many ramparts and cornices.
- James Lien

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 666 - May 15, 2000
Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2

The second volume in XTC's comeback opus finds the perennial pop underdogs returning to the electrified Beatle-pop drive of their '80s prime after lulling fans with a bittersweet symphony on 1999's Apple Venus Volume 1. But while Wasp Star is instrumentally more akin to the amplified quirk of English Settlement and Oranges And Lemons, the poetic fortitude and lush beauty of Apple Venus remains a constant on the second volume, albeit in a more stripped-down form. Recorded in Colin Moulding's renovated garage studio, he and partner Andy Partridge's 12th proper album is filled with future classics like the giddy, quasi-Stones romp "Stupidly Happy" and the Lennon-esque blues medley "Wounded Horse." If you're one of the few who thought XTC was making that beeline towards the MOR nursing home, wait until you feel the sting of this wasp's saccharine venom.
- Ron Hart

[Thanks to Ryan Snyder]

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - September 14, 2000
Soldier Boy
It's hard to believe that the author of a peacenik line like, "Generals and majors always seems so unhappy/Unless they got a war" keeps a stockpile of 3,000-plus toy soldiers in his attic. Yet XTC's skittish songwriter Andy Partridge harbors a soft spot for cast iron generals and majors with a pint-sized appetite for destruction. For nostalgic reasons, the machismo-mocking pop troubadour prefers the mid-20th century mass-produced toy infantrymen he deployed as a child, as well as late-1800's German models with doll-like faces and lumpen features that cost about $30 each. "It's still cheaper than a cocaine habit," reasons Partridge, whose recently released Wasp Star (TVT) ripples with similar dry English wit. Since Partridge can't draft troops very quickly at $30 a head, he also sculpts them out of epoxy and occasionally gets on his elbows and knees for carpet combat. The relatively innocent pastime keeps XTC's frontman in touch with the "big kid" inside him--it's not only a driving force behind his songwriting, but a defense mechanism. "The big kid protects me because I don't trust anyone and I think people are there to fuck you over. It's something my psychoanalyst is trying to unravel for me. I hope he doesn't kill the big kid off, though, he's been very useful."
-- Neil Gladstone

[Thanks to Gary McBride]

(c) CMJ
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 163 - Feb 10, 1989
"Mayor Of Simpleton"

We're sure we're not the only ones chomping at the bit for Oranges And Lemons, the forthcoming double splat-o-wax from Swindon's favorite sons. Echoing Skylarking's wonderful "Earn Enough For Us," "Mayor Of Simpleton" canters cheerfully with hooks lurking in every crevice; Andy Partridge's lilting melody and David Gregory's chiming 12-string give the song an extra pop sheen. The other LP track, Colin Moulding's "One Of The Millions," is a more esoteric selection, finding his symmetrical vocal/bass compositional counterpart recalling Mummer's more disjointed approach. The flip includes the band's atonal, whacked-out cover of Captain Beefheart's "Ella Guru" (from last year's wonderful Fast N' Bulbous compilation of Beefheart covers) coupled with two charming home demos, one each from Partridge and Moulding. On these, the sound quality is a little thin, but all are songs that most bands would sell their souls for; that they're consigned to demo-quality B-sides is a testament to XTC's perennially under-recognised but seemingly boundless talent.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

CMJ New Music Report - Issue 6, Dec 13, 1980
Black Sea

Considering the inaccessibility of their first two albums, White Music and Go 2, the success and general commerciality of XTC's last album, Drums And Wires, came as a surprise. This time, with Black Sea, XTC ought to find itself with an even wider audience, because there's plenty here to satisfy even the most timid radio programmer and borderline rock dance club DJ. In only a few spots is this LP less than acceptable in a mainstream pop sense. But although XTC has modified its experimental zeal somewhat, it is still one of the most progressive of the newer British rock and roll bands to make it on any commercial level at all. Black Sea fine-tunes what was begun on Drums And Wires. Danceability abounds throughout most of the record, as does superb production, musicianship and writing. Guitarist Andy Partridge's songs dominate the LP, and he's learned to finely craft a melody without losing sight of the need for incessant rhythm and meaningful lyrics. In fact, one of the most attractive characteristics of Partridge's songs is his ability to say something with punch while attaching his message to the most hummable melody. In a manner similar to that of the Kinks' Ray Davies, he often pens what may be termed neo-protest lyrics. Take for example "Living Through Another Cuba," a song which warns of impending war between the U.S. and Communist countries. While Partridge is singing lines such as "If they're not careful, your watch won't be the only thing with a radioactive glow," the band is cranking out some of the most rhythmic and melodic pop heard all year. What is disappointing, though, is that bassist Colin Moulding didn't contribute more to Black Sea. Moulding has a fine pop vision which complements Partridge's nicely. His "Generals And Majors" (another song about the military) is one of the highlights of the album, and "Love At First Sight" exhibits a sense of ironic tongue-in-cheek humor that shows that Moulding and Partridge think along the same lines in many ways, which helps unify the band's sound. Unfortunately, those are the only songs Moulding contributed, and additional output by him would have helped balance the record. Despite the few faults, Black Sea is a good followup to the popular Drums And Wires. Producer Steve Lillywhite took great care to keep the music from getting too soft while also keeping it from being too eccentric for the masses. The sound quality is hot and clean, but it doesn't assault. XTC is turning into a band that should appeal to both new wave purists and the average record buyer. And so far they've done so without sacrificing any integrity or by stunting their own growth.
- Jeff Tamarkin

Copyright 1978-1998 College Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 247 - Aug 02, 1991
Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry, to jump up and down for joy or go looking for the nearest romantically picturesque suspension bridge. First, we spent years scouring import stores, searching for all the elusive import 12"s, singles, EPs, flexis and rare curios we could find. Then, along came Rag & Bone Buffet, originally a pricey import collection now seeing domestic release, a stupendous compendium of rare B-sides, Peel sessions, leftovers and odd tracks. It's an absolute programmable feast for any XTC lover, a decade of debris and more from one of the most prolific and outstanding recorded careers. Amongst the gems: the raucous "Extrovert," "Heaven Is Paved With Broken Glass," "Thanks For Christmas" (an extremely rare Christmas single released anonymously as the Three Wise Men), Cohn Moulding's "Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen" (originally recorded under the pseudonuym of The Colonel) and other rare wonders like "The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men" and "Mermaid Smiled." Still, it looks like somebody somewhere must have overlooked "My Paint Heroes," a haunting, sparse Andy Partridge B-side from Oranges & Lemons that's not included here-so don't throw out all those 12"s and singles just yet.

CMJ New Music Report - Issue: 164 - Feb 24, 1989
After a two-and-a-half year wait (a mediocre Dukes Of Stratosphear LP notwithstanding), XTC is back with yet another album-a double-of their ever-winning, ever-esoteric pop. Brighter and more aggressive than their last (they recorded in L.A. for the first time), Oranges & Lemons is stylistically like 1983's off-kilter Mummer crossed with their last, Skylarking, but, as usual, XTC skips carelessly between styles while remaining unmistakably themselves. There's jangle-pop (the single, "The Mayor Of Simpleton"), psychedelic touches, and even jaunts into (quasi) jazzy/easy-listening territory ("Pink Thing," "King For A Day"), all with their nursery rhyme-ish melodies and Beatles influences writ large. As usual, Andy Partridge wrote the bulk of the songs and his is the most dominant presence, while Cohn Moulding (who may write fewer songs, but they're just as good) contributed three. XTC has perennially been under-recognized for their genius, sublime pop; this record is as good as any in their catalogue. Top cuts: "Mayor," "The Loving," "Merely A Man" and "King For A Day."

CMJ contents

May 2007

[thanks to Andrew Boyle]
ANDY PARTRIDGE: Self-Editing: Andy Partridge Gets Away From The ABCs Of XTC With Moonstrance
By Dan Macintosh

Andy Partridge is best known for XTC's pure pop confections, where melodies permanently attach themselves to your brain's memory cells, whether you want them there or not. But with his latest band, Partridge has created a monster—or a Monstrance, to be precise. Reunited with former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, who brings along fellow Shriekback drummer Martyn Barker, Moonstrance's self-titled debut (Ape House) conjures up instrumental, improvisational trances that will no doubt keep your senses working overtime. Partridge spoke with us about breaking free from structure, reuniting with old friends and leaving the past in its rightful place.

In what ways has Moonstrance fulfilled musical urges that could not be quenched with XTC?

It fills an enormous urge. You see, XTC are more of your kind of architectural outfit. We like making buildings. We like things to be nicely balanced in a kind of Palladian sense, you know? We like the symmetry and we get into it more and more in the details, all interlocked and all inter-worked. But to some extent, I've gone along that route for many years. Ever since I was a teenage kid I've had a hankering to be totally free with music and just pluck it from the air; to be constantly in contact with the source of inspiration. Not just to have a flash of inspiration and then take it and beat it and shape it and bang it with a hammer until it looks more acceptable or sounds more acceptable. I have kind of been externally excited by being constantly plugged into the juice, the creative juice. This is the chance to do that. If a piece of music with Monstrance doesn't work, we don't use it and we carry on and record something else. Everything is plucked from the air and nothing is discussed. It's just all grabbed.

Do you think you will ever record an album of proper songs (both words and music) with Monstrance?

I don't really know, because we spoke about the possibility of putting one [song] with words on later, but when we got into making the music, it felt like the music itself was enough. And [there's] the fact that we didn't make any overdubs with it or we didn't shape it too much later on. Pretty much what you hear on that record is really what came off of the floor. Even the effects that you hear are just slight exaggerations of the effects that we're using. I might dial up a reverb on the floor for a guitar or Barry might have an echo on his keyboards or something. What you're hearing is kind of a cosmetic buffing up exactly what's coming off of the floor live, which is very rare in music today, because it's all artifice now, you know.

Your guitar work on this project has been compared to that of Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny. Since people often call XTC's work Beatle-esque, I wonder who some of your non-British Invasion guitar heroes might be.

I guess the biggest hero for me actually, ironically, is a British person. He's dead now. But he was a guitar player that I guess the best records he made were with a band called Patto. His name is Ollie Halsall. Before Ollie, when I was at that kind of learning, learning, learning stage as a kid, I would try and copy Hendrix or I would try and copy Rory Gallagher, who was another hero of mine, to try and find out how all those blues things worked. You know, a little bit of Eric Clapton. Not so much Eric, actually, I found much of Eric Clapton's playing rather staid. By the time I could do a reasonable approximation of Hendrix or a reasonable approximation of Rory Gallagher, I blundered into hearing Ollie Halsall on Patto records [and] I just might as well have smashed up the guitar and started again because he played runs and things on the guitar that you would only associate with the piano or a saxophone or trumpet. They're not necessarily guitar figures. That really excited me; the idea that this was somebody who was thinking of the guitar outside of it being a guitar. And ironically, he called himself mostly a piano player or a vibes player, both of which he was very proficient on. But when he got on the guitar, it didn't necessarily sound like the guitar. It wasn't the same old corny runs that I'd spent the last three or four years learning.

This CD marks your recorded reunion with Barry Andrews. How long have you been plotting to work with him again?

Well actually, no, it doesn't [mark the reunion]. Sometime before this, I actually played on an album he did as Shriekback called Cormorant. And although you wouldn't recognize my playing because he likes to mangle and sort of garble up sounds to such a degree that you can't know what the hell you're listening to, a lot of what you might think were keyboard sounds on Cormorant were actually my guitar. But after Barry had mangled me psychedelically, it was an opener to getting back with [him].

Was your parting with him in 1979 amicable?

Yes it was. The period right up to that, things got very difficult because he obviously wanted his own group and to do his own music and he was, I think, trying to force XTC into a different mold very early in their kind of public career. And I resented that...And then he was somebody who was writing lots of songs and trying to wrestle the group away from me. We ended up doing many separate interviews for the press and we ended up being rather bitchy toward each other, so things got a bit difficult, and when he left I wasn't surprised. In fact, my first couple of thoughts were, "Oh my God, there goes the sound of XTC out the door!" And my second thought was, "There goes my only intellectual conversation!" because I didn't know anybody that I could sort of joust with in a way that I would joust with Barry verbally and mentally.

Is XTC on hiatus or is it now past tense?

We've not officially split, but I have to be honest with you: Of the moment, I can't see myself working with Colin [Moulding] again. Things have gotten pretty sour between us over the last couple of years. But I don't feel too bad about the XTC legacy. Jesus Christ, we've left some great stuff!
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