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Subject: Chalkhills #70


                  Chalkhills, Number 70

                 Monday, 4 December 1989
Today's Topics:
             Early XTC (and mid, and late...)
          _English Settlement_ = XTC Conspiracy?
                      XTC long past
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From: eaubry@eagle.wesleyan.edu (Ed Aubry)
Subject: Early XTC (and mid, and late...)
Date: 28 Nov 89 00:00:38 GMT

[ I am reposting this article here because I thought
  it might spark additional discussion.	-- John ]



In Article 33498 (<1353@sas.UUCP>) of rec.music.misc, bts@sas.UUCP
(Brian T. Schellenberger) writes, concerning the album _Go 2_:
>
>*ANYWAY*, the question is:  Was this, like, the worst album they ever made, so
>that my giving up on early XTC was off-base?  Any guidelines from long-time
>XTC fans appreciated.

Not by a long shot.  Their worst album by far and away is White Music, their
first album, following their debut 3-D EP.  It is a mish-mash of experimental
art-punk that is more a novelty item for XTC historians than a piece worth
serious consideration.  Even worse than this was an EP they put out after Go 2
(their second album) called Go +.  It is composed entirely of hideous remixes
of songs from the first two albums.  This (and the Andy Partridge solo album
of the same nature) is the only XTC record that I truly dislike.

The big turning point for this band was the replacement of keybord/guitarist
Barry Andrews.  Taking his place was Dave Gregory, who first appears on Drums
and Wires, their third LP.  This is a fine album, much more directed than their
previous work, and much more refined in style.  The intrusive/obnoxious
keybords are expunged in favor of a cleaner guitar sound.  The next album,
Black Sea, is more of the same, and also very good.  Following this was an EP,
Five Senses, which wasted no time going out of print, and for some reason
turned up on the Black Sea CD in a fragmented form.  It is, nevertheless, quite
good, if you can find it.

Then came English Settlement.  This is, IMHO, their best album to date.  It is
a double LP (single CD), and with it, they take their own style of quirky
british pop about as far as it will go.  If you don't have this, you need it.

After this they put out a double compilation album, Waxworks/Beeswax, which
covers most of the singles they had released up til then, and many of the
b-sides.  All the material on Five Senses appears on this compilation, as does
all the material from the 3-D EP.

Having taken british pop out to its logical extreme, and having undergone
another lineup change (they lost their drummer, Terry Chambers, and continued
with studio drummers -- to this day there is no drummer in the band) they began
to experiment at this point.  Their next album, Mummer, tries with mixed
success to incorporate folk and jazz elements into their style.  It is with
this album that the first hint of a strong Beatles influence emerges, as they
include snippets of psychedelic ideas that are very remeniscent.  Their next
album, The Big Express, is a stronger work, and the Beatles influence truly
begins to take hold.

Having started down that road, XTC metamorphosized into The Dukes Of
Stratosphear, and released 25 O'Clock, an EP done in the style of late sixties
psychadeleic rock, a la the Beatles, the Doors, the Moody Blues and just about
anyone else from that era.  This is extremely good satire, with the proper
amount of reverence.

After a short break from recording, they came out with Skylarking, and the
Beatles influence was released like the evils from Pandora's box.  Comparisons
ran rampant, and the US public first began to take notice with the song Dear
God (originally kept off the album, when the single became popular, a new
version was pressed, including it).  Hot on the heels of this was another Dukes
Of Stratosphear album, Psonic Psunspot (both this and 25 O'Clock were released
on a single CD entitled Chips From The Chocolate Fireball: An Anthology).
This, too, is good satire, but a little more broad-based than 25 O'Clock, and
the joke was starting to wear thin.

Then, of course, came Oranges and Lemons, probably their most experimental work
yet.  It is both too far in the weird direction and too near the mainstream.
It is a good collection of songs, but as an album it lacks cohesiveness.

So, to recap:

3-D EP			C-
White Music		C-
Go 2			B-
Go +			F
Drums And Wires		A-
Black Sea		B+
Five Senses		B+
English Settlement	A+
Waxworks/Beeswax	B	(compilation)
Mummer			B
The Big Express		A-
25 O'Clock		A	(The Dukes Of Stratosphear)
Skylarking		A+
Psonic Psunspot		A-	(The Dukes Of Stratosphear)
Oranges And Lemons	B+

These are, of course, merely my opinions.  I would be glad to see a discussion
of this from other XTC fans.

I hope I answered your question.

						-Ed
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Date: Thu, 30 Nov 89 07:47:23 CST
From: oconnor!keaton!jtl@oddjob.uchicago.edu (Joe Lynn)
Subject: _English Settlement_ = XTC Conspiracy?

	I recently picked up the Virgin/Epic copy of _English
	Settlement_ at a used record store.  As I compared the
	track selections of the LP and (US)CD, I noticed that
	the "XTC" logo on the album cover is different from
	the Geffen CD (I don't have the Geffen LP, so I don't
	know about that one), to wit:  the "C" has a cross in the
	middle on the Epic version, but it has a cat's-eye-shaped
	oval in the "C" on the Geffen release.

	Sure, this sort of thing seems minor: the sort of thing
	only a collector's magazine might be interested in...
	Or has XTC joined some Illuminati plot and these are
	secret signals being sent out?

	BTW, does anyone know who acted as XTC's "Dave Dexter" and
	whittled _Settlement_ down to one LP?  I know CBS did it
	to make the LP more 'accessible' to the US market...

				--Joe Lynn

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Date: Mon, 4 Dec 1989 22:27:44 PST
From: John M. Relph <relph@presto.ig.com>
Subject: XTC long past

A few interesting items from the past, from _Progressive Media_,
April 26, 1982:

    _English Settlement_, Number 1, Progressive Radio Album
    XTC, Number 12, Commercial Radio Airplay
    XTC, Number 1, College / Non-Commercial Airplay
    XTC _English Settlement_, Number 1, Reporters' Picks
    XTC "Senses Working Overtime", Number 2, Stand-Out Cuts
    XTC "Runaways", Number 20, Stand-Out Cuts
    XTC _English Settlement_, Number 1, In-Store Play
    XTC, Number 4, Audience Response (most requested)
    XTC _English Settlement_, Number 2, Imports
    XTC _English Settlement_, Number 9, Progressive Retail Album

			 -------

		  [selected portions of]

	 XTC: A Conversation with Andy Partridge
		    by Moira McCormick

  They're a pop band with brains, never content to exist at only
one level, forever bombarding the listener with tricks pulled
>from a bottomless bag -- puns and wordplay, serious commentary,
aural effects, hooks, lines, and sinker.  There is so much going
on in the typical XTC song, no matter how immediately accessible
it may be, that it takes a few dozen listenings to assimilate.
Yet they haven't a pretentious bone among them; XTC doesn't care
whether you appreciate their subtleties or not.  If they can get
you through the glands, they've communicated.  And they just have
the best time slinging more musical stuff at you than you can
possibly catch.

			 -------

  Partridge says _English Settlement_ reflects XTC's growth,
especially in light of several years of touring under their
collective belt.  "We were very aware of England in general, and
English things," he says of writing the album.  Up to that point,
"we'd been touring so much that coming home was like visiting a
foreign country.  But we knew we belonged there, and I think we
suddenly became aware of lots of things that were going on.

  "I think it's our most English record.  That's why it has that
title, you see.  It's kind of an ambiguous title.  [In fact], the
British cover is an embossed prehistoric hill carving of a horse
-- literally a kind of Iron Age advertisement for an English
settlement that was on top of the hill when the first settlers
came to England.  And it's _us_ living here, settling here, and
also the settling of viewpoints, when two people have a
disagreement or a different view and they get something settled.

  ...

  Cover aside, Partridge sees _English Settlement_ as a chronicle
of the band as well as the world around it.  "Nobody's personaity
stays the same from day to day," he explains.  "It changes
subtly, and over the space of weeks and years quite dramatically.
We like to carry this to our music.

  "I'm becoming much less interested in music and much more in
words," Partridge adds.  "And I think it's beginning to show --
on this album, there are a lot of words per track, if you see
what I mean.

  "Also, much simpler forms of music appeal to me -- I think the
music's getting simpler as the years go by, and this is not a
desire to say, `Hey, let's make some money.'  It's just that I'm
trying to simplify the music and be more effective with less."

			 -------

  The American record opens with Moulding's moody, percussive
"Runaways."  "I ran away when I was a kid, and Colin did, too,"
Partridge recalls.  "I don't think we knew anybody who didn't run
away when we heard our parents fighting.  From what I can gather,
it's just about feeling awful and desperate and thinking the
whole world's collapsing when he or she hears their parents
fighting."

			 -------

  "I'm quite an optimist, I'm quite a smiley person, really," he
goes on cheerily.  "I'm not down very often.  I think there are
people who are much more miserable than I am.  Maybe that makes
me a simpleton, I don't know.  Some idiot formula for feeling
okay."

  His "Jason and the Argonauts," says Partridge, is an analogous
description of touring.  Far from the tiresome "on the road
again" touring anthems, "Jason" is replete with tantalizing
images of the "exotic fish" picked up along the way.  "It's
literally the only song about touring I've ever written, and
that's not apparent," admits Partridge.  "You go around the world
so much, and you see so many _apparently_ weird things -- my
songs are never stright-ahead, there's always a lot of things
colliding; love ambiguity and things like that -- it's basically
like coming home and trying to explain the unusual things I've
seen.  When people try to explain these unusual things, they
never come out right.

  "With expressions in the song like, `She was a real scarlet
woman,' some poeple might think, `Well, did he mean she was sort
of red?' -- things like that.  You're exposed to things for the
first time, and you think, `God, how wonderful' or `How amazing,'
and you go home and your head is absolutely crammed with this
outside information, and I'm trying to blurt it all out.

  "We try to give the music a continuous traveling feel," he
continues.  "It just keeps chugging and chugging on; it could be
traveling on a train, or in a boat.  Do you see what I mean?
Some poeple have criticized that track ["Jason"] particularly for
being somewhat overlong, but its length is just to create this
hypnotic continual traveling effect."

  Side one ends with the dub-inflected "Snowman," of which
Partridge says: "It's possibly me in the past -- a chap being
costantly ignored by a girl he's trying to make interested in
him.  She's treating him like absolute rubbish.  A line in the
song -- it's Dave Gregory's favorite line; he said, `Andy, that's
absolutely the best line you've ever written' -- is `People will
always be tempted to wipe their feet on anything that's got
`Welcome' written all over it.'  She's not taking any notice of
him, and he's just freezing up, because he wants to show that he
loves her.

			 -------

  The dreamy, hypnotically percussive, and quite jingly "It's
Nearly Africa" is ... at first glance a concession to pop music's
current faddish preoccupation with African rhythms.  In fact,
informs Partridge, "The body of the song was written in 1975; I
never though about finishing it till 1981.  The original song was
called `It's Primitive Now.'  It was a little celebration of all
things primitive, of how we should slow down and appreciate being
basically animals, in the good sense of the word; how we should
realize we're really very primitive and find the joy in that,
rather than racing onwards through technology and losing our
realness."

  Partridge does of course realize that African songs are in
vogue, and says apologetically, "I do find that a little bit
embarrassing.  I was very suspicious of bringing this song up
when I finished it.  I told the rest of the band, `Look, I'm
awful worried about this -- it seems to be the thing to do now!'
They said, `No, it sounds like a good song, let's finish it,' so
they sort of coaxed me into it.  If it does sound like it's in
fashion, it's totally unintentional, and whoops, I'm sorry about
that."

			 -------

  "I turn into a gorilla on stage.  I use my brain the rest of
the year, and then when I get onstage my brain turns off and this
Neanderthal man rises out from inside me and jumps around for an
hour and a half.  And then the brain clicks back into use about
10 minutes after we've finished and I'm led in a sweating pile
into the dressing room.  And I think, `Oh God what have I just
done?'  My brain just turns off.  I stop thinking about what I'm
doing, totally.  I'm in total animal overdrive.

  "You're so wound up with nerves," he goes on, "the little piece
of elastic snaps, catapults your brain off into space -- to save
it from going crazy -- and lets your body dance around for an
hour and a half.  Hopefully, it still keeps the audience
interested.

  "I hate repeating myself," Andy Partridge states with finality.
"When we perform, every night the suit is made differently.  Some
nights we leave the arms off, and some nights we stitch one of
the pockets up so you can't get your hands in."

  XTC has the world in stitches.

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