Read the introduction to this review here.
“Church Of Women” reminds me of Tears For Fears’ “Woman In Chains” lyrically, as the submissive state of the fair sex is somehow explored. In Andy’s case, though, the strong/weak roles are not just reversed but eventually coalesced as all that remains is a respect for life so profound that it is impossible to think of someone submitting himself so wholly without being incredible weak and incredibly strong at the same time. A really striking song, and the end chorus is just sublime.
“Church Of Women” would have worked excellently as an album closer, much in the same way that “Books Are Burning” closed “Nonsuch”. But…
…we have “The Wheel And The Maypole”. I have already talked a bit about the song when reviewing “Apple Venus”. Some quick facts: the song is made up of two different compositions that Andy glued together as neither was working individually. One deals with the creation of life, and the other with its finality. The first is “The Pot Won’t Hold Our Love”. The second is “Everything Decays”. I like the imagery, as a pot is something very small and fragile that isn’t really suited for holding something as valuable to begin with. I guess that is the idea, along with expressing that love can be kept everywhere, and even in places that one could create himself.
On the other hand, a maypole is a very British symbol, and one that is associated with the countryside (Thomas Hardy often alluded to it at least once per book). Whole families used to gather round those, and children would play while young women tried to guess the names of their future husbands.
“What made me think we were any better”, Andy sings during the chorus. I can’t answer to that. He is the only one who knows the reason. But when he sings “And what made me think we’d last forever”, any person who came to the band knows exactly what to say. XTC was a work of love. Deep in your heart, you know that your love will go on as long as you live. Things don’t always work out like that, of course. The world imposes demands for making any love viable. A good musician makes his love thrive by adapting to what record companies and even his public demands from him. That ends up destroying what he originally had in his heart, and it makes his innermost gifts resemble the ones that artists since the dawn of time have given us.
Andy wasn’t ready to make that compromise. He knew that there were things that could be unearthed only by shying from so many conventions and traditions. A world painted in grey is not a world at all. He colored his, and he colored ours in the process. He who grabs any album by XTC in the future will grab the brightest box of paints available.
I really don’t know what else could be said. I just want to thank the band in general and Andy in particular for what they did. I started writing the week I bought my first XTC album. I have just published my first book. If I inspire at least one person in the way that this band has inspired so many, then I would be the happiest guy around. It’s true, in the end we’re all light. But there are lights that are fated to shine forever in the hearts and eyes of people. I feel lucky and I feel blessed for having once discovered this band.
And the church bells softly chime.