eye - 01.13.05

The Anti-Hit List


10. DOVES, "Black and White Town"


8. DAVID KITT, "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville"

7. ANDY PARTRIDGE, "Dear God (Skiffle Version)": As parenthetically advertised, this brief, acoustic demo bounces unnaturally along on the balls of its feet, quite unlike the indignant stomp it would assume in its final form. For those of us fascinated by the songwriting process, it also offers a fascinating peek into Andy Partridge's creative habits. (From Fuzzy Warbles 5, www.ape.uk.net)

6. SNOOP DOGG VS. OUTKAST, "Drop it Ms Jackson"

5. BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY & MATT SWEENEY, "Bed Is for Sleeping"

4. BEN LEE, "Catch My Disease"

3. BETTY WRIGHT, "Gimme Back My Man"

2. LAUREL MacDONALD, "Flutter"

1. SUMMER AT SHATTER CREEK, "Your Ever Changing Moods"

eye - 03.11.04

The Anti-Hit List


10. THE DISSOCIATIVES, "Somewhere Down the Barrel"

9. PETER BLEGVAD & ANDY PARTRIDGE, "Night of the Comet": Recorded over a period of 13 years, this fearlessly uncommercial labour of love sets the former's recitations on mortality to the latter's percussive musical settings. Together, they create the kind of original work that may not appeal to the masses but that is destined to have a profound impact on a devoted minority. You know who you are. (From Orpheus -- The Lowdown, www.ape.uk.net)

8. BLONDE REDHEAD, "Tons Confession"

7. SEACHANGE, "News From Nowhere"

6. ANIMALMONSTER, "Dr. Moreau"

5. PEGGY LEE, "The Nickel Ride"

4. ILL LIT, "Preston Rules"

3. NOVA NOVA, "Eternity"

2. SHANNON WRIGHT, "Black Little Stray"

1. SEX PISTOLS VS. CHER, "No Feelings 4 Cher"

eye - 07.17.03

The Anti-hit list


10. ELBOW, "Fallen Angel"

9. GO HOME PRODUCTIONS, "Paperbacklash"

8. THE INNOCENCE MISSION, "Tomorrow on the Runway"

7. ADAM MASTERSON, "Same Sad Story"

6. ANDY PARTRIDGE & DAVE GREGORY, "Strawberry Fields Forever": The fruit of the latter's eccentric hobby of recording note-for-note recreations of classic pop songs, this homemade homage is touching for the 10 per cent it doesn't get quite right, especially Partridge's self-consciously Lennonesque vocals. (From Fuzzy Warbles 3, www.ape.uk.net)

5. AMY HONEY, "Lousy Mom"

4. IN-FLIGHT SAFETY, "Somebody's Watching You"

3. TIED & TICKLED TRIO, "Memory Dub"

2. TV ON THE RADIO, "Mr. Grieves"


eye - 06.12.03

The Anti-hit list


10. DAVID SYLVIAN, "A Fire in the Forest"

9. PETER BLEGVAD & ANDY PARTRIDGE, "Beetle": On which the newspaper cartoonist/Slapp Happy founder re-teams with his XTC pal and emits a variety of considerably less polished noises than the pair came up with 20 years ago on the cult classic The Naked Shakespeare. Described on Partridge's website as "a voodoo psalm of entomological graphology," which translates into "contrarily eccentric." (From Orpheus the Lowdown, www.ape.uk.net)

8. BILLY CORGAN, "Song for Judy"

7. ASPERA, "Mountains Will Give"


5. CHUNGKING, "Bubble Love"

4. QUEEN VS. BAD MANNERS, "We Will Ska You"

3. PUDDU VARANO, "Running with the Devil"

2. !!! (CHK CHK CHK), "Me & Giuliani Down by the School Yard"


eye - 03.20.03

The Anti-Hit List


9. EELS, "Saturday Morning"

8. THE BE GOOD TANYAS, "Diamond in My Crown"

7. DEBORAH & JASON BONHAM, "The Battle of Evermore"

6. TERMINALHEAD, "Headstrong"

5. TERRY REID, "River"

4. XTC, "Playground": Yes, releasing the instrumental backing tracks to the two Apple Venus albums does seem a bit excessive/obsessive, but then again, that duality characterizes much of XTC's audience. The true value of this collection lies in Andy Partridge's droll, incredibly detailed liner notes, which helpfully point out the exact time at which the otherwise oblique Cat Stevens and Beatles references appear. (From Waspstrumental, www.xtcidearecords.co.uk)

3. THE CANSECOS, "The Shore"

2. M.C. HONKY, "The Devil Went Down to Silverlake"

1. BUFFSEEDS, "Barricade"

eye - 01.23.03

The Anti-Hit List


10. THE FLAMING LIPS, "Can't Get You Out of My Head"

9. SPARKS, "Suburban Homeboy"

8. THE CLIENTELE, "Haunted Melody"


6. CULTURCIDE, "They Aren't the World"

5. MASSIVE ATTACK, "Special Cases"


3. THE CAESARS, "Jerk it Out"

2. HEM, "Pacific Street"

XTC's Partridge and Moulding

1. ANDY PARTRIDGE, "Don't Let Us Bug Ya": The legendary "Peach" tracks -- the five songs Partridge banged out for Disney's James and the Giant Peach that were shelved over (what else?) a monetary disagreement -- have tantalized XTC fans for the past nine years. This irrepressible recording from that songwriting burst finally makes its (legitimate) debut on a fascinating collection of home demos, outtakes and other assorted oddities, the first of a projected 12-volume series. Hearing Partridge demonstrate a surprising and hitherto unknown facility for children's music should be enough to make you open a savings account expressly for the purpose of acquiring the entire set. (From Fuzzy Warbles Volume 1, www.xtcidearecords.co.uk)

eye - 05.16.02

Spring Record Guide

The eye music staff presents a selection of sounds to rock you till the summer comes


XTC * * * *

Coat of Many Cupboards Virgin

A quick glance at the track listing of this four-CD box set reveals the thoughtfulness invested in this collection, which contains XTC's entire output for Virgin Records. Most noticeable is that Coat doesn't contain any of XTC's biggest hits. You then realize that more than two-thirds of the songs here were never released. There are outtakes, single versions, home demos recorded on cassette (check the take on "Senses Working Overtime" on disc two and disc four's almost unlistenable version of "Mayor of Simpleton," which Partridge calls "rummaging around in an idea for a song"), rejected single recordings, cuts from rehearsals and performances on British television shows. Considering the intelligent, quirky Beatle-esque pop that the four-man band delivered between '77 and '92, this unpredictability shouldn't come as a surprise. You just wish that every career retrospective was this daring and satisfying. EN

eye - 05.24.01



White Music ****
Go 2 ****
Drums and Wires ***
Black Sea **
English Settlement ***

Like many bands, XTC started out with a slightly chaotic bang and developed their songwriting sophistication until they lost their pop smarts in complicated musical statements.

Still, because their talents were so varied to begin with, they've hung in for the long term, despite not touring since '82. At the beginning, they were lumped in with new wave, but their catchy pop and angular edginess set them apart, and their social commentary recalled Ray Davies more than anything else.

Unfortunately, their extravagant talents made them a hard sell, so take advantage of Virgin's reissuing of their first five (best) albums. Put on White Music (1978) and be carried away by "Radios in Motion," with its punkish energy and irresistible "wooohhs," then be assaulted by the dissonance of "X Wires" -- that double whammy is XTC in a nutshell. There's a handful of prime bonus tunes; only the cover of "All Along the Watchtower" is questionable.

Next was Go 2 (the same year!), on which Barry Andrews' keyboards so beautifully decorate Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding's ironic tales of suburban Swindon. "Battery Brides" consolidates the elements, while "Red" and "Crowded Room" concentrate on the pop energy. "Are You Receiving Me?" is the icing that makes Go 2 their finest moment. Drums and Wires (1979) was the swan song of classic XTC in my book, containing their first real hit, "Making Plans for Nigel," plus "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty," "Life Begins at the Hop" (more "wooohs") and "Ten Feet Tall."

Black Sea (1980) just doesn't connect -- maybe because their previously impeccable melodic sense is slipping -- although, as always, there are nuggets, like "Burning With Optimism's Flame." English Settlement (1982) puts the high-energy stuff on the back burner, along with Partridge's vocals, and suffers as a result -- although it's got the singalong "Senses Working Overtime" and the startling "It's Nearly Africa" going for it.

The reissues sport cardboard cases like original vinyl miniatures, and XTC were no slouches when it came to design -- the postmodern sass of Go 2's cover has yet to be equalled. More reissues are expected shortly. MARY DICKIE

eye - 05.25.00

B&W in colour

XTC simplify with Wasp Star


Moulding and Partridge enjoy that gorgeous blank feeling

"I'll just pretend I'm dreaming this," jokes Andy Partridge as he begins his umpteenth interview of the day. On the promo trail for XTC's solid 12th album, Wasp Star (TVT/UMG), he is beyond talked-out, but chats amiably like the veteran rock star he is.

"Pretend you're dreaming" might have been a good mantra for Partridge through the '90s. That decade included a divorce and a long illness for him and, for his band, repeated votes of non-confidence from Virgin Records. XTC wriggled free of the label last year, after legal bickering forced a seven-year hiatus from recording.

"While we were in the fridge," says Partridge, "we were not so cold that we couldn't work our hands. It was depressing not being able to get out of Virgin, because we had these great songs. I thought they were the best we'd ever written. I felt an almost religious zeal for them."

The first fruit of XTC's downtime was 1999's Apple Venus Volume 1, an expansive (and expensive) orchestral manoeuvre consisting of 11 brilliant art-pop pieces. That it was glossed over by all but the faithful was frustrating, but Partridge says its lukewarm sales had nothing to do with the band's return to guitar rock -- Wasp Star is simply the second half of what was going to be a double album. "If Apple Venus was a colour IMAX presentation, Wasp Star is a black-and-white TV play," he explains. "I don't think you have to use every colour to make a great picture. This is more immediate-sounding, easier to get into."

As for whether XTC will try to keep up the album-a-year pace, Partridge is noncommittal. "We haven't started working on the next one. We finished this great big dropping of human effluent, and it's kind of that 'Ahhhh' sensation now. Seat's down, flush is gone and we're opening the door, adjusting our trousers. It's gorgeously blank out there."

One thing is certain: XTC will not be playing live -- not now, not ever. Even apart from his well-documented stage fright, Partridge feels touring is "not creative. It's a travelling prison sentence, nothing to do with music." Devotees will have to content themselves with the occasional studio opus, as Beatles fans did post-Rubber Soul.

Partridge and musical partner Colin Moulding were born in the English working-class city of Swindon, and still live there (Wasp Star was recorded in Moulding's house). "It's not that I love Swindon," says Partridge, "it's just every time I make some money to escape, someone robs me of it -- a crooked manager, crooked lawyers. I'm saving up again."

If Partridge has felt stranded in his home town, it hasn't prevented him from penning sprawling odes to the outside world. Songs like last year's "Harvest Festival" and the new "The Wheel and the Maypole" possess a universal perspective, which sounds weightier than it's meant to -- Partridge has little patience for bleak English rock. "Radiohead take themselves too seriously," he says. "I fail to see that they're miserable 24 hours a day. I bet they laugh and have fun; why can't that be in the music? The best music reflects a broad spectrum of emotions."

Accordingly, Wasp Star runs the gamut of human experience, from the head-over-heels euphoria of "Stupidly Happy" to the vitriol of "Wounded Horse," from the lofty ideas of "Church of Women" to the subatomic truth of "We're All Light." It should help re-enlist Drums and Wires-era XTC fans who were bewildered by Apple Venus Volume 1.

"With the orchestral arrangements on the last record, I satisfied a desire that I'd been bottling up for a long time," says Partridge. "Now I'd like to explore simple music more."

Exploring basic song forms has always been fertile territory for XTC, and there are a few instant classics on Wasp Star. But the band has never really had a bona-fide hit single, and that's unlikely to change. So as you watch seemingly surefire fare like "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" fail to click on radio, don't despair. Just pretend you're dreaming.

eye - 03.18.99



Apple Venus Vol. 1
TVT/UMG ****

Since Vol. 2 won't appear until late in the year, it remains to be seen whether it was a folly of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding to end a seven-year absence with two albums -- one acoustic and orchestral, the other electric -- thereby emphasizing their split personality. Vol. 1, the "orchistic" one, is a long way from eggheaded new-wave triumphs like Go 2 and Drums and Wires, but it's an even better collection of bucolic, clever-arsed pop than 1986's Skylarking. "River of Orchids" begins the disc with something like the cracked-string-quartet sound of Michael Nyman's scores for Peter Greenaway, and "It's Like That" and "Frivolous Tonight" are more sophisticated and less cloying than most of XTC's remakes of '60s psych-pop styles. The jolly tone is often undercut with remarkable nastiness, the most vicious example being "Your Dictionary," in which Partridge directs a poison pen at his ex-wife. Vol. 1 is both sweet and sick. -- JASON ANDERSON

eye - 12.05.96

It's all Coming Back To Me Now

XTC/Fossil Fuel 1977-92 (Virgin/EMI): They started out like Wire you could dance to, The Jam with air-quotes. Before Barry Andrews split for Shriekback, his keyboard squiggles underpinned Andy Partridge's jittery pop ("Science Friction" and "Life Begins At The Hop" reign supreme). Even after their second writer, Colin Moulding, landed XTC a megahit with "Making Plans For Nigel," they resisted the temptation to make sense. "Senses Working Overtime" was another hit, XTC became a stadium act (until Partridge was overcome by stage fright) and then the abyss...

By 1986 you either regarded Partridge as a neglected genius or an obtuse nit. At the same time, Moulding's contributions were increasingly gorgeous. The divide was most pronounced on the single for "Grass," a lush Moulding piece too soon ignored in favor of the B-side, "Dear God," a charmless Partridge diatribe much admired by college-radio atheists.

Beyond that, the psychedelic pastiche of side band The Dukes Of The Stratosphear carried over into XTC proper, pastoral values à la The Kinks became a priority and the band's energies were largely expended on a war with Virgin. But as Fossil Fuel amply proves, they often showed a flair for writing pop songs.


thanks to Don Breithaupt and David Oh
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