New Musical Express: XTC: News and Reviews

This Week's Singles

Single of the Week

I'm The Man Who Murdered Love (Idea)

Older students will remember Andy Partridge as the man who wrote the Britpop book 20 years ago, then threw it away at regular intervals thereafter between getting in touch with his bucolic side and collecting toy soldiers. No wonder Blur tried to work with him once, only to give up on discovering he's as mad as candyfloss. Still, just to remind wannabe whippersnapper tunesmiths how it's done, XTC are back from various excursions orchestral (and rather more interesting) with a straightforward XTC pop album, from whence this straightforward XTC pop single hails. Naturally, given Partridge's singular vision, it isn't straightforward enough, tossing at least three times too many ideas into the pot until the concoction begins repeating on this feebly-constituted contemporary consumer, who is then forced to go and lie down in a dark room and listen to Kid 606 for three days. There is a track on the new XTC album called 'Stupidly Happy', however, that is pure, dumb, simplistic pop genius. Too simple, clearly, to be released as an XTC single.

Keith Cameron

NME News

Countdown to XTC

“The high point of XTC drummer Terry Chambers' career was breaking into a fish shop and pissing into a batch of uncooked chips.” -- XTC's Andy Partridge

“It's driving me mad! Where are XTC? Oh misery -- put me out of it!” -- Marcus Ford, Rugby

XTC are, even as we communicate, piecing together an album at a market town studio. Andy Partridge took time out from the sessions to report:

“We're working with Gus Dudgeon (he of various Elton John sessions and Bowie's ‘Space Oddity’ fame), who's so wrong for the project that he's right for it. Actually, Gus is all right -- apart from his clothes sense. When we first saw him, we were in a pub and Colin looked out the window, saw Gus and the way he was dressed and yelled: ‘Don't let him come in here -- he'll get beaten up!’

“We should have made the album a year ago, but we've had wretched luck with a couple of other producers. One kept us waiting for months while he finished his missus' album, then, just when he was supposed to start with us, nipped off on a two-week holiday in the Bahamas. Also we took about 30 songs into Virgin Records and all of them got rejected. Now we hope to record about 20 tracks, if the budget allows it. One of the songs is cod-Bacharach.”

Partridge, the man who once provided the whole history of rock in just three chords (he can also provide a fair impression of Morrissey by using just three notes) says that, though he's now an in-demand producer in his own right, XTC really need a separate “ringmaster”.

“The last band I produced was The Lilac Time. Previously I'd worked with The Mission but it was a complete disaster. Serves me right really, because it was the only job I'd ever taken for purely mercenary reasons.

“Working with Stephen Duffy was entirely different, even though he's totally besotted with Nick Drake. He's also the biggest Beatle fan I've ever met. He would point out things I had never noticed, things like the duff guitar solo on ‘I'm Down’, how you can actually hear the string section talking on the stereo mix of ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the fact that John Lennon can be heard exclaiming ‘f---ing hell’ amid ‘Hey Jude’.”

So when can we expect the new album?

“Maybe late this year or early next year.”

Probably best to say early next year then?

“Yes, that's about right.”

[Thanks to Little Express subscriber Natalie Johnson]


XTC — Music Machine

Photo credit: Walt Davidson

Only a few nights earlier there'd been a brawl in the Music Machine involving the Boom Town [sic] Rats, but in the cold atmosphere while XTC played it seemed impossible anybody could get carried away and start chucking beer mugs.

The place is like a mini-Lyceum Ballroom with 60s tack decor. Crafty fluorescent lights cause young ladies considerable embarrassment when their black bras clearly show up under their white blouses; an assortment of middle aged drinkers making the most of the Machine's late bar license mingle with the white haired punks; and dolls house tables and chairs are positioned around the now deserted dancefloor.

Somewhere in the rafters XTC peer down at the largely indifferent audience, some 20 feet below the stage.

They're a youthful quartet exhibiting characteristics of new wave music: singer-guitarist Andy Partridge has a monotone vocal style inspired by the Dylan-Bowie-Reed school, the numbers are short attacks on your rhythmic senses, and instrumental virtuosity is negligible.

In style they're curiously and indiscriminately eclectic, drawing from the MC5 and Stooges, and yet having more than a passing respect for 60s British Beat Music. Drummer Terry Chambers, bassist Colin Moulding and Partridge are visually reminiscent of the Mod genre, and yet their keyboard player, Barry Andrews would probably be in a Rock 'n' Roll revival band, had not punk rock come along.

Obviously the early 60s puppet show theme "Fireball XL5" when they sound like the Tornados and Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower", a pretty mediocre interpretation with harmonica, are songs they include to confuse an audience even further.

Musically they're fairly inexpert, but instead of this manifesting itself as raw energy, XTC choose to be careful, keeping the songs simple, unornamented and as a result generally unexciting. And due to Partridge's garbled vocal it's difficult to make out the lyrics, except on "She's So Square", which apparently refers to the bores of '67.

Moulding, an excellent bassist and probably the best musician of the group, sang one of his own songs, "Dance Band", and unfortunately has a clearer diction. Say unfortunately, because lyrics such as "One, two, three, I'm so happy and so is she" are hardly impressive.

They encored with a particular lethargic reading of "Route 66".

Tony Stewart

[Thanks to Jonny Stephens]

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