Oranges & Lemons (XTC) – Album Review (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of the review. Head here for Part 1.

Colin’s contributions to XTC’s 1989 album come in the shape of “King For A Day”, “One Of The Millions” and “Cynical Days”. I must say that – in my opinion – he had never made such a sparkling contribution to an XTC album. “Skylarking” comes pretty close, but if I were hard pressed I would go for “Oranges & Lemons”. It seems to me that the pressure they all underwent during the “Skylarking” sessions enabled Colin to come up with songs he would have kept to himself otherwise. It is as if some barriers had been taken down, and this is specially true of the song “One Of The Millions” – “I never seem to do anything”, “I won’t rock the boat ’cause I’m scared what might happen”… If he is not speaking to his band mates, he is clearly speaking to himself.

A song which was virtually rewritten for the album was “Merely A Man”. Producer Paul Fox did really like the demo, but it turned out that Andy had written the tune as a wind-up for some music biz executives. Not to let their new (and young) producer down, he rewrote the lyrics and the song ended up being a standout, if only because of  Dave’s thundering performance. Continue reading

Oranges & Lemons (XTC) – Album Review (Part 1)

"Oranges & Lemons" Was Released in 1989

"Oranges & Lemons" Was Released in 1989

This was the first XTC album I set my hands on. I bought it used but in mint condition for a completely ridiculous amount of money, something like the equivalent to USD 2. Talk about bargains. Looking back, I can honestly say that this was the perfect introduction I could have had to these impassioned artistic rockers. The album has my favorite XTC song overall (“The Mayor Of Simpleton”), and that song in particular and the album on the whole made me pick up the craft of writing lyrics. I don’t think there is a better indicator of the transcendence a piece of art can have than that.

The record has 15 songs, and in more than a couple of instances it resembles the Dukes more than fleetingly. That is true not only when it comes to compositions like “Garden Of Earthly Delights” but also to the cover art, a happy 60s pastiche that once again showcase Andy’s visual skills.

Three singles were culled from the album: “The Mayor Of Simpleton”, “King For A Day” and “The Loving”. More importantly (and maybe even more uplifting for us fans), the band hit the road again to promote the album. But it is not that they “toured” in a conventional sense. Rather, they did several live radio shows to promote the album. They even played one with an audience of about 250 people, and everybody remarked how much Andy enjoyed it. Good for him. Those of us who are fond of the band admire him as an artist but dearly care for him as a person, and it must have been a touching moment for everybody who was there that day.
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Black Sea (XTC) – Album Review (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of the review. Don’t forget to read Part 1 for the introduction!

The original album had 11 songs, and the CD rerelease 14. If we had to summarize what XTC achieved here in one word, that would be “consistency”. The album is a true work, and in certain places it feels like a continuous track (some songs actually run into each other).

It is not an easy task picking favorites this time – as I said, there is such a sense of unity that the album is one of the most rewarding listening experiences within XTC’s catalog. What I can do is pick out personal favorites: these would be any of the singles plus the splenetic “Paper & Iron” and “Burning With Optimism’s Flames”. “Paper & Iron” has my favorite performance from Terry on any of their albums – he carries the whole song, takes it wherever he wants and finishes it with a detonation the kind Keith Moon would be proud of. For its part, “Burning With Optimism’s Flames” has a mesmerizing chorus that makes the title of the composition become more than a mere asseveration.  Rather, it turns into a true validation for pushing forwards no matter what. Continue reading

XTC – General Introduction

The Original Line-up

The Original Line-up

A band which is often regarded as too cerebral for its own good, XTC has no equal. One of the many groups that rose to prominence (at least in critical terms) during the punk heyday, they proved to be much more than mere British punksters from day one. The band was led by Andy Partridge, who wrote about 85 % of the original compositions and assumed lead vocals. The other songwriter was Colin Moulding. He penned the remaining tunes, sang them and played the bass quite admirably (Gilmour offered him the position of Pink Floyd bassist when he won the rights to use the Floyd’s name back in the late eighties, in fact). Continue reading