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
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
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
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".