Don’t forget to read part 1 of this review where the “25 O’Clock” songs are analyzed.
Things were different the second time the Dukes grabbed their instruments and donned their Paisley shirts. The record company was really interested in what could come out of it, and the budget had been doubled. And the sound was not to be the pastiche that characterized “25 O’Clock” – this time around it was an homage to most 60s bands, regardless of the fact that they had anything to do with pyschedelia or not. The leadoff single exemplified that perfectly, as “You’re A Good Man Albert Brown” was a buoyant sing-along in the vein of the Small Faces. While it didn’t hit as hard as “The Mole From The Ministry”, it was successful enough to warrant this new excursion in the eyes of the record company.
If anything, the second time around the line that separated XTC from the Dukes became indivisible, with songs like the impeccable “Vanishing Girl” and “Pale And Precious” being (needlessly?) sacrificed on the Dukes’ altar. “Vanishing Girl” (a song that trails the sound of The Hollies) was also used to promote the album, and I must admit it is my favorite song penned by Colin ever.
And “Pale And Precious” is one of the most honorable homages to the Beach Boys I have ever listened to along with R.E.M.’s “At My Most Beautiful”. The vocal harmonies are absolutely exhilarating all along, and the coda could go on for 10 minutes and not make you lose your interest for a single second.
Andy also contributed the orotund “Collideascope” (which had been around as a lyrical idea since the “Go 2” days), and the flipside to “That’s Really Super, Supergirl” – a song named “Brainiac’s Daughter” penned ostensibly because Brainiac (one of Superman’s arch enemies) was too bizarre a character not to touch on a psychdelized record. For its part, “You’re My Drug” recalled the West Coast sound of bands like The Byrds.
The disc also pays a clear debt to the Small Faces’ opus “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”, as snippets of a narrative play between some songs. The protagonist is no other than Colin’s son Lee, and a sort of Alice In Wonderland story is narrated. Thankfully, these fragments are kept concise and fresh, and they never get in your nerves.
After the release of Psonic Psunspot, Andy announced that the Dukes’ career was over. They were resurrected occasionally – a sort of follow-up that focused on ‘70s bands was discussed but it never came to fruition. Neither was the projected film based on “25 O´Clock” and “The Great Royal Jelly Scandal” (a rock opera), or the glam-induced “The Stratosphear Band”.
Both “25 O’Clock” and “Psonic Psunspot” have recently been re-released on their own. (They are the first records within XTC’s oeuvre to which Virgin relinquished the rights.) These reissues are for completists only – “Chips From The Chocolate Fireball” has all the Dukes’ music you need to hear. And I frankly know few examples in which using the expression “music you need to hear” is so justified.