Mummer (XTC) – Album Review (Part 2)

Part 1 is found here. It deals with the songs on the original LP.

Like every other XTC album, this was to be reissued in the ’90s. Every single CD comes with additional tracks, and I must tell you that the booklets are uniformly subpar. Upon release, Mummer was quickly (and deservedly) hailed as the XTC album that was bonus-tracked the best.

Six songs have been added. Two are instrumentals from the Homo Safari series, and while they are the weak links they do work. If there is an album where you could throw anything into the mix and get away with it, that is Mummer. The songs would have stood as a sore thumb anywhere else.

The four actual songs that have been added, though, would have worked here, there and everywhere. But in the context of Mummer, they work like a dream. You have two incredibly uplifting numbers in the shape of “Jump” and “Gold”, whereas “Toys” is one of Andy’s most whimsical tunes of the period, but it is absolutely lovable because (unlike the Mummer tracks) he stays more true to the sound that always characterized XTC’s most soaring pop moments.

I saved an entire paragraph for the final bonus track. “Desert Island” was one of the first songs Andy wrote after he cracked, and the song has a sad undercurrent that is backed by an excellent melody and a realized group performance. The image of a man wandering his country in solitude is a poignant one knowing the difficulties he was undergoing at the time. Andy was to lock himself up for a couple of months and become horrified by interacting with others. His mastery when it comes to composing has always been such that he could craft this song, painting a deserted world in an affable way that does not strikes the listener with dread but entertains him and makes him do the right amount of thinking without going overboard. My hat’s off to him.

Now, the overall conclusion. In a sense, the original record is an excellent snapshot of a band that almost disintegrated and that decided to carry on without being exactly sure how to proceed best. They were going to make a mistake or two along the way. Nobody gets it right every single time. But this album is probably the least-effective record they were to release. As I said at the beginning, their records were always- always – something of a mystery to be fathomed out. Mummer is the first and only time that you are not engaged enough as to solve it.

Any XTC album has good music, of course. Mummer does. But it does not live up to their standards, and I can only recommend it to true fans. That is, the kind of people who forgive a mistake as they can see the effort that was made. Anybody else will feel that his money was ill-spent. And if you have to buy it, go straight for the CD reissue. Anything that hasn’t got the bonus tracks won’t do.


5.5/10 (Original album)

7/10 (Reissue) (w/bonus tracks)

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