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.
I haven’t mentioned a composition which was originally considered for “Skylarking”, but which Todd left out of the original running order: “Across This Antheap”. It must stand as one of the most adventuresome songs within the band’s catalogue. I don’t know whether their MO was altered by the way Todd had worked with them on songs like “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul”, and how he had brought outside (and truly alien) influences in. All I can tell you is that the song has such drive that the brute force which it describes when it comes to societal matters comes across as nothing short of killer instinct. A very, very powerful moment.
It is easy to get carried away when talking about an album like “Oranges & Lemons”. There is so much enthusiasm at play and so much joy at life’s virtues that it is simply contagious. This is my favorite XTC album, although I reckon that both “Skylarking” and “Nonsuch” are better from an objective point of view. There might be too much of a 60s influence for some at play, but that should not really stand in the way of the excellent music and lyrics the album holds. I never thought that the biggest celebration of life I was to come across musically would cost me only USD 2. In the end, I guess it is as they say: these things that are truly precious do not have a price. They are not really for sale. XTC’s music is noncommercial by nature because the message has always been priceless, and that is the simple (and complicated) truth of it all.
A “bonus track” for all of you:
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