“This Is Pop” – the XTC documentary (Showtime, 2018)

“This Is Pop” is a documentary that avoids the far(c)e associated with the vast majority of “rockumentaries”, but that comes as no surprise if you are familiarized with the band it centers on: XTC. And if you’re not, then its frontman Andy Partridge makes that clear pretty early on, when he states they were never really “rock stars” in any accepted sense of the expression.

Through its 70 minutes, this 2018 Showtime documentary chronicles the band’s story from its origins as The Helium Kidz to the very end of XTC’s career, when only two of them remained together. The scene is set via some animations (many of which were provided by Andy himself, who is a gifted cartoonist), miniature models and interviews with people who (fortunately) all have something to say that is of relevance.

As much as I was moved by this documentary, I must mention that some of the information seems to contrast what was previously stated on certain band biographies. For instance, on “This Is Pop” Andy claims that the drum pattern you can listen to on “Making Plans For Nigel” was the result of transposing an acoustic melody Colin had come up with to Terry’s skins. Yet, on the book Chalkhillls & Children biographer Chris Twomey set forth that the “Nigel” drum pattern was chanced upon when Terry misunderstood some instructions Andy had given him.

Well, I’m not really sure it matters that much in the end. And specifying the actual contents of the documentary would absolutely defeat the whole point of this article. Yet, to give you an idea of its overall dynamics, you are brought on a trip through XTC’s entire oeuvre with an emphasis put on the vital joy of music making and creation (as exemplified by the several fragments in which Andy and Colin retrace how they composed some of their key XTC tunes, and –in one case– tracing the actual composition of one on the spot by Andy. But that’s the best, most intriguing part of the documentary, and I don’t want to spoil anything). Continue reading