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From: chalkhills-request@presto.ig.com
To: chalkhills@presto.ig.com
Subject: Chalkhills #296


                  Chalkhills, Number 296

                 Monday, 18 October 1993
Today's Topics:
                   Greatest XTC Moments
                   Re: Chalkhills #295
                        Hey there.
                   Re: Chalkhills #295
                   Re: Chalkhills #295
                  Re: Nonsuch Reactions
            Re: XTC live and "Nonsuch" rating
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Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1993 21:14:58 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ian Williams <ecstasy@gibbs.oit.unc.edu>
Subject: Greatest XTC Moments

        I found Dave Franson's article on "Nonsuch" to be one of the
best-written things to crop up in this fantastic mailing list, and not
just because I agree with him on each song. In essence, he is doing what
we are all doing at that year-and-a-half period between XTC albums;
digesting the musical food stuffed in our cheeks months ago.
"Anaerobically respirating," if I may borrow another biological metaphor.
In the same vein, I'd like to self-indulge my Top 5 XTC moments, the
random times in their music that reaffirmed my faith in modern songwriting!

1. "This Is Pop" -  The opening chord, a giant brainfart that introduced
me to these snotty brits when I was fifteen, took me right to the opening
chord of "Hard Day's Night" - and in an instant, my obsessions were
passed from one band to the other. After years of living vicariously off
the brilliance of the Beatles, I finally had another band whose
musicality and harmonic cave-exploring I could call my own.

2. "I Remember the Sun"/"Ladybird" - I see these two as harmonically
similar, Andy and Colin each weighing in their jazz sensibility with
beautiful precision. The bridge in "Sun" is breathtaking, and the ending
of "Ladybird" is my idea of aural liquor. It also brings me back to the
days I spent living in London, an American fifth grader choking on a
school tie in the gray English mist. It rains so much there, you must get
used to the drudgery and make your own fun inside. When the sun does come
out, though, Britain wakes up for a day, the countryside comes alive, and
everyone looks at each other with that unspoken recognition that it was
indeed going to be a special day for us kids.

3. "Season Cycle" - Nobody writes pop songs like this, lads. Verdant
spirals and umbilicals and pedals pushed, full of the kind of beautiful
imagery and sexy chord changes that rock posers dismiss as too pretty. I
think the ability to write like this is far more ballsy than any grunge
or metal could ever be.

4. "The Affiliated" - As lame as it sounds, I was in a pretty special
fraternity a couple of years ago at college. Like most things, it has
deteriorated into the typical wankage that characterizes such social
organizations, but for a long time it was the sort of intellectual and
soulmate-divining meeting place that is almost impossible to find. The
sentiments that filled the halls whenever one of us started to date a
young lady were exactly those of this great song; all of the jealousy and
sadness at losing "one of the boys" as if they were Vikings lost to war.
At the same time, their seat's always there, "if he wants it..."

5. "Poor Skeleton Steps Out" -  Three years ago I went to Jamaica by myself
for a week, on a special cheapo student rate, to relieve the pressures
of school and other random romantic problems. After the first day, I
began to feel a little woozy, and by Tuesday I had full-blown dysentery.
Over the next three days I lost ten pounds and was reduced to a hollow,
wracked frame, shaking with a 104-degree temperature in the corner of the
youth hostel. The only tape I had was Oranges and Lemons, and I
tentatively put the headphones on and stared out the window at the
beautiful night ocean. "Poor Skeletons" came on, I knew for a moment that
I was that skeleton on the floor, aching to jump free of my useless body
just for a few moments to run clattering down the street to the beach. I
hunched over and sobbed for three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. That
was the last time the disease brought me close to surrender and death,
and from that moment on, I was able to take it by the throat. I managed
to get an emergency plane to Miami and stumbled back to Chapel Hill to
gain my strength. Saved my life? Perhaps. It's such a great song regardless.

        I shan't apologize for blabbering my indulgencies; hopefully
that's what this list is for! I wouldn't mind hearing other stories from
folks - I can't afford the New Zealand picture disc of Go 2, and memories
are free.
Thanks,
Ian Williams
Chapel Hill, NC

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Date: 14 Oct 93 09:27:33 EDT
From: Kyle Skrinak <70702.3054@compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: Chalkhills #295

I gotta throw my two cents in...

>The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
(Dave F.: D)
(Jon D.: A)

Mediocre, at best. Andy loves to sprinkle his politics whenever possible,
usually to bad effect (Love Thing, President Kill--possibly there worse song
ever! One exception; Melt the Guns) The music is good, the song would be
better if it were considerably shorter. C

>My Bird Performs
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: F)

Nah, I don't hate it, but Colin has lost his punch on this album! D

>Dear Madame Barnum
(I don't have what Dave F. or Jon D. rated it...)

This is one of my all-time favorite XTC songs. Connects to the point where my
hair stands on end! Lyrics, music, drumming is excellent! I actually didn't
miss Terry on this one (I never miss Andy's drum programming...) This is an
example of were it *doesn't* sound like they made a conscience effort at a
"pop" hit, but it should've been. A+

>Humble Daisy
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: F)

>>Jon D.:too wimpy.<< Huh? XTC, the "real man's band?" G'won! Get outa here!
Your missing the whole point. It took me some time to get used to the fact
that Andy is a Beach Boys fan. I hated "Pale and Precious" for quite some
time for similar reasons, too. But, after I got over the "wimpy" factor,
these songs are really rather beautiful. B+

>The Smartest Monkeys
(Dave F.: C)
(Jon D.: C)

Yea, you're both right. The lyrics *kill* this song! Another example of
politics (or sociology) killing a good song. C

>The Disappointed
(Dave F.: C)
(Jon D.: A (I think--ks)

Yea, I'm disappointed, too. Reminds me too much of the "King for a Day" sound,
which sounds too much like that song "Everybody wants to rule the world" who
was that, Tears for Fears? Horrible song.) Sounds like Andy said to himself,
"I'm gonna write a commerically sucessful song..." D

>Holly Up on Poppy
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: F)

I don't know what "twee" means. That said, I don't have kids, either (I do
have a dog) and enjoy this song. I like this "kindler, gentler" sound they're
developing. Here's to hoping they go more in this direction. B

>Rook
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: B-)

Andy really books on this one. No "let's make a hit" sound to this one. One
>from his heart. Refreshing. Piano is nice, too. B

>Omnibus
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: C-)

A much better attempt at sociology then "The Smartest Monkey." Great bass
line, convincing lyrics... B

>Wrapped in Grey
(Dave F.: C)
(Jon D.: ?(didn't say)

Dave F.>:no staying power<< I hate it when people make such pronouncements. If
Noustradamus were commenting, then, perhaps...

Another favorite of mine on this album. Along the lines of "Rook" and "Holly
Up on Poppy" See "Rook."

>Bungalow
(Dave F.: A)
(Jon D.: F)

I don't hate it, I just gotta wonder, what's happened to our poor old boy
Colin! Sounds like some sort of existential barber shop quartet. D

>Books are Burning
(Dave F.: C)
(Jon D.: B)

I very much like the music. I very much hate the lyrics. Not the sentiment,
but, damnit, Andy, stop berating us about what's right and wrong. In Omnibus,
we're not being hit over the head, we're being led to greener fields (with
green women? (g)) The lyric "The church of matches appointing ignorant with
gasoline...The church of matches grow fat off the smell of broken
dreams...It's quite obscene" I'm sure my remembering of the exact lyrics is
off, but, what corn! No poetry at all! C

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Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1993 17:02:38 -0300 (EDT)
From: "B.D. Kallion" <u9219833@muss.cis.mcmaster.ca>
Subject: Hey there.

Hi there, my name is Brian.  "Hi Brian."  And I... I like XTC.  "Well,
it's glad you could come out and say it."  Yeah, it was gut-wrenching.  I
couldn't keep it inside any longer.

Anyway, Hi there.  I found out about this mailing list from snooping
around on a remote file server and found a list of all sorts of mailing
lists for many very nice bands.  XTC is one of them, and that is why I
find myself writing here (well the message told me to introduce myself)
and I couldn't be more bubbly about the prospect of finding out if
everybody agrees with me that XTC are among the best lyricists of all
time!  Their music is pretty good too.

Brian Kallion
McMaster University

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Subject: Re: Chalkhills #295
From: kevin@sys6626.bison.mb.ca (Kevin Scott)
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 93 16:41:53 CST
Organization: System 6626 BBS, Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

Re: rating Nonsuch

It's been interesting reading other people's thoughts on the album.
Thought I'd kick in mine, albeit briefly...

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead - B

I might have rated it higher once.  But it doesn't have the staying power
that the great XTC songs do.

My Bird Performs - A

Dear Madam Barnum - B+  (see Peter Pumpkinhead)

Humble Daisy - B

I hated this one initially.  But the lazy melody is infectious.

The Smartest Monkeys - D

My only real problem with this one is that it doesn't have a hook or
anything that might make it memorable.  The tune just kind of wanders and
doesn't stay with me.  Lyrically I suppose it's OK but I kind of shrug my
shoulders at lyrics anyway.

The Disappointed - B

Holly Up On Poppy - B+

Crocodile - B+

Rook - A

Omnibus - A+

The aforementioned cross rhythms are what suck me in here.  And the brass
is great, which is a rare thing in rock...usually I find brass in rock
music completely incongruous.

That Wave - D

I find this song utterly depressing.  It seems widespread; everyone I
know that has this album tends to despise this one too.

Then She Appeared - A+

After saying lyrics don't do much for me I'm forced to say that these
lyrics do.  And the tune is incredible.

War Dance - B-

Wrapped In Grey - C

The Ugly Underneath - B-

Bungalow - F

I thought Moulding was on a creative high after hearing "My Bird
Performs".  I quickly changed my mind after getting this far into the
album.  I don't understand the appeal of this song at all.

Books Are Burning - B

And there we have it.  Overall I think the album is terrific.

Kevin

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Date: 14 Oct 1993 19:01:28 -0800
From: "Steve Krause" <steve_krause@qm.sri.com>
Subject: Re: Chalkhills #295

RE>Chalkhills #295
Re: How's Nonsuch Holding Up?

Here's my take on Nonsuch:

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
  I agree with others' criticisms that the lyrical theme has been
  done to death already, but I like the song's live feel. Also, it
  really works as the opening song on the album. The little touches
  like the guitar-plugging-in intro and the "Let's begin!" kick
  things into gear nicely. I'll call it a solid.....B+

My Bird Performs
  Yeah, the lyrics are definitely not too happening. The rest of the
  song, however, is very well written, played, and produced--the best
  that Colin has done in a while. I especially like the verse/chorus
  combo vocals at the end. In addition, the song's overall feel is a
  nice contrast to "Peter Pumpkinhead." Another.....B+

Dear Madam Barnum
  Maximally clever lyrics (definitely up there with "Another Satellite"
  in the metaphor-miles-per-gallon category) and textbook XTC pop. The
  only problem I have with it--which emerged after several listens
  rather than at the beginning--is that this type of tune is getting
  a little too easy for Andy to crank out. Given, it's an odd criticism
  to say that he's getting too good at writing exquisitely crafted pop
  miniatures, but I just don't feel the same level of investment in this
  kind of song as with others like "Rook" or "Wrapped in Grey." To be
  fair though, it's good to have a mix of heavy and light. I'm just
  trying to explain why I only gave this one a......B+

Humble Daisy
  This one pushes the bounds a little more, taking a lot of cues from
  Brian Wilson but adding enough Andy to keep it from being simply
  derivative. I like the production with the extra-dry guitar at the
  beginning contrasting with the richer mix later. Colin adds some
  fine bass touches in the second verse, and the lyrics and music
  together really evoke a unique feel. A very fine.....A

The Smartest Monkeys
  Majorly ham-handed lyrics, but the cool groove (with some especially
  nice work near the fade out) saves this one from a really ugly grade.
  Also, it has my favorite picture on the back with the monkey riding
  around on the pig. Still, it's a.....C

The Disappointed
  Another catchy, clever pop gem. I like the slightly subversive hi-hat.
  It's a good song, but see my comments on "Dear Madam Barnum" for why
  I only give it a.....B+

Holly Up on Poppy
  In the great XTC tradition of grafting an ultrasmooth melody on top
  of somewhat unorthodox chords, this one excels. There's a lot of
  harmonic movement going on here, yet it all comes across seamlessly.
  A lot more complex--and, for me, rewarding--than the relatively
  straightforward pop of "The Disappointed," I give it an.....A

Crocodile
  Someone needed to reign in Andy's leash on this one. There's only
  so much cleverness you can pack into one song, and, although this
  one has its moments, I think it goes over the line. The lyrics
  are a little too precious and the production too busy. However,
  Dave's great solo redeems this one up to a.....B

Rook
  If I didn't have the context of Andy's songwriting development over
  the past 15 years, I'm not sure what I'd think of this song. But,
  when I take it in terms of his evolution (both in the musical and
  age sense), it's an incredible piece. This was once the guy on the
  cover of _White Music_, after all. I was especially struck by the
  line "If I die and I find I had a soul inside, promise me that
  you'll take it on its final ride." That adds some interesting
  complexity to (although it doesn't necessarily contradict) Andy's
  avowed atheism in other songs. It's an.....A

Omnibus
  This would have made a nice find as a B-side, but I don't think it
  adds much to the album. Like Crocodile, it's overly busy for my
  taste, and the whole thing doesn't quite hang together. C+

That Wave
  Nice use of pitch shifting on the vocals, great lyrics, and a most
  excellent guitar solo. Although the production is pretty bombastic,
  it works. Call it an.....A-

Then She Appeared
  The most impeccable 60s pop since "Vanishing Girl" off the 2nd Dukes
  album. Extra credit to Dave Mattacks and the drum engineer for
  playing/getting that retro-drumkit sound. Although this song could
  potentially fit in my category of Partridge perfect-pop-tune
  knockoffs, it is so ridiculously well done that I'll give it
  an.....A

War Dance
  Not a particularly inspired effort, but, as someone else said,
  "I don't program around it." There's something vaguely sublime
  about Colin's vocal delivery and the clarinet-like synth patch.
  Although I think the album would not suffer from deleting it,
  I'll still give it a.....B-

Wrapped in Grey
  I share Melinda Hale's and Jon Drukman's enthusiasm for this one.
  The sentiments in the song seems fundamental to Andy's outlook on
  life, and the overall lyrics/music combo really hits home for me,
  especially the "Just think how the old masters felt, they call..."
  transition. I'd give it an A+, but I always feel just a little
  let down by the very last bit at the end. I don't know about others,
  but, for me, it takes something away from the rest of the song.
  Nevertheless, "Wrapped in Grey" is still an impressive.....A

The Ugly Underneath
  This is brilliant all the way around, and it has some refreshing
  bite. Also, as a bonus, the organ coda at the end is really nice.
  My favorite song on the album (with "Wrapped in Grey" a close second),
  it gets the coveted.....A+

Bungalow
  I'd like to know what the story is behind this song. I see it as
  weirdly schmaltzy, but with enough off-kilter elements (like the
  choir-ish bits) to keep it passable. If it was significantly longer,
  I wouldn't be so generous, but I'll give it a.....B

Books Are Burning
  A pretty good song, but, for some reason, it doesn't quite gel
  (although it tries real hard in the bridge). Part of the problem
  is that it got the role of Profound Album Closer, which raises
  the standard. Whereas "Peter Pumpkinhead" fits nicely into the role
  of opening tune, I think "Books are Burning" suffers by being
  turned into the anthemic finishing track. Nevertheless, the dueling
  guitar bits at the end are fun (especially Andy's), and it's tough
  to argue with the sentiment in the lyrics. I'll give it an A for
  effort, but, in terms of execution, it's only a.....B

A pretty strong album when compared to the rest of XTC's catalog,
Nonsuch has, for me, mostly stood the test of time. Although I think
I could live without several songs on the album, it's not like any
of them are true clunkers. Nevertheless, the recent trend of the boys
putting everything they record on the CD has, for me, diluted both
Nonsuch and Oranges and Lemons a little bit. Each of these albums
would have been tighter and more consistently excellent had a few
lesser songs been omitted from each. On the good side, however, a
"lesser" XTC song tends to be better than most band's best songs, so
it's not exactly a crisis situation.

Over and out,
Steve

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Date: 17 Oct 93 11:47:47 EDT
From: Dave Franson <72277.311@compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: Nonsuch Reactions

Hi all,

Nice to get some feedback on my "Nonsuch" thoughts!

Melinda M Hale writes:

>The piano is really nice, but the resolution into the "your heart is the
>big box of paints" segment is lovely.  I always get excited by the build-
>up into "awaken you dreamers", and the the way that line joyously bursts
>out of the strings, backed by -- jingle bells!

Well, actually, I think it's the piano bit that bores me quickly.  However,
I agree on the resoution into the "your heart..." segment.  And thanks for
pointing out the jingle bells-- they are nice decoration and I hadn't paid
enough attention to them before.  I think I've been touched off and on by
the song (most of my acquaintances would comment that I'm "touched" all
the time!), but I don't find it compelling on every listen.

Karl Kotzek writes:

>What attracted my attention was that you rated only A's or C's (one
>D).  There seem to be no songs with minor imperfection worth a B for
>you!  Kinda like that "do-or-die" attitude!  But why not more D's?  Is
>it, because something good is in each song after all?  Or would giving
>D's be too harsh to our gods? :-)

Yes!

(Less succinctly, I thought I tried to point out some merits in each song,
even if I didn't rate it high.  As you point out, it's odd that I didn't
rate any B's, but even upon reviewing my original comments I don't feel a
need to change my assessments.  Must be that "do-or-die" attitude you cited!)

Jon Drukman writes:

>The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
(dave: D)

>absolutely not.  i love the track - an excellent tune, and so what if
>the lyrical theme has been done to death?  A

Well, I think the problem is incredibly lame lines like "But he made too
many enemies/Of the people who would keep us on our knees."  I just can't
find anything fresh in the song.

>My Bird Performs
(dave: A)

>feh - i really hate this song.  especially the sexist tone of the
>whole thing - "my bird performs" indeed!  weak weak weak.  F

Well, you're right, it IS sexist.  I think the unfortunate choice of illus-
tration for the song in the packaging reinforces the idea.  This song is
a "comeback" for me-- for a while I couldn't stand it either, but then I
suddenly came to like it immensely.  Mebbe 'cause of the "Demo Tracks"
version.

>Humble Daisy
(dave: A)

>too wimpy.  F.

NO WAY! A+ (Network battle of the concise wits.)

>The Smartest Monkeys
>
>>Unbelievably trite, unimaginative lyrics.  Sociology 101.  So it's a total
>>failure on the lyric level, but what music!  Great syncopation (it's what
>>originally attracted me to the song, and what continues to hold my
>>interest), and a synth solo that leaps out over the bridge.  C

>it's actually a hammond organ through an overdrive pedal.  i agree
>with the C, even though i still listen to the song...

Yeah, I still LISTEN to it... my C ratings don't mean I don't enjoy the
songs.  Thanks for the correction on the Hammond organ vs the synth.
File under "Why I'll never quit my day job and become a music critic."

>The Disappointed
(dave: C)

>nope, i love it.  lovely rolling rhythm, and the words are absolutely
>spot on.  since my love life has always been, um, rocky, this one hits
>home in a devastating way.

OK, you're allowed to let sentiment intervene. :-)  See "Holly" below.

>Holly Up on Poppy
(dave: A)

>the brits have a word called "twee" that is incredibly appropriate
>here.  i don't like this one.  maybe if i had a kid.  F

Right, as I said in my original posting it has huge personal sentimental
value to me.  BUT I STILL THINK I WOULD FIND IT A GREAT SONG NONETHELESS.
How dare you invoke that scurrilous adjective "twee"! :-)

>Rook
(dave: A)
>nice, but it doesn't connect for me all that well.  B-

Existential angst always connects for me.

>Omnibus
(dave: A)
>see "rook".  C-

Ouch!  A "B" I'd be able to attribute to idiosyncrasy, but a "C-"?

>Wrapped in Grey
(dave: C)
>>Like "The Disappointed," absolutely no staying power.  Tedious
>>and plodding after several listens.

>oooh, them's fightin' woids.  this is probably my fave track on the
>album.  don't know why, but everything about it works for me.  love
>the piano, strings, beach boys harmonies... it's great.

I don't think I have anything else to say about this one.

>Bungalow
(dave: A)

>ugh... i hate this song completely.  so weak.  F

No... still great.  Gorse.  A

>Books are Burning
(dave: C)

>eh, it's not that bad.  call it a B.

You're right, I blew it... it's definitely a B.

Thanks to all who responded to my post.  To reiterate the post's original
raison d'etre... "Nonsuch" is a great XTC album, no?

Dave

mELt tHe GUNZ.

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Date: Mon, 18 Oct 93 13:53:14 PDT
From: "John M. Relph" <relph@presto.ig.com>
Subject: Re: XTC live and "Nonsuch" rating

Karl Dotzek <karl@ims.uni-stuttgart.de> writes:
> "JR" == Jeff Rosedale <rosedale@columbia.edu> writes about XTC live (edited):
>
>    JR> The antidotes so far have been effective - acoustic radio tours
>    JR> showing innovative creativity and a willingness to satisfy our
>    JR> desire to hear it fresh off the instruments;
>
>What about XTC for MTV's "Unplugged"?

Oddly enough, XTC played `live and unplugged' before there ever WAS an
"MTV-Unplugged".  In fact, some people give XTC the credit for
starting the entire `unplugged' movement.  They appeared on MTV during
their Acoustic Radio Tour and, as they say, the rest is history.

        -- John

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