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    WHITE MUSIC 7 ( 1978 )
    Radios In Motion / Crosswires / This Is Pop / Do What You Do / Statue Of Liberty / All Along The Watchtower / Into The Atom Age / I'll Set Myself On Fire / I'm Bugged / New Town Animal In A Furnished Cage / Spinning Top / Neon Shuffle

    I was born in the Devonshire countryside. A very rural and reclusive lifestyle. XTC were four young lads from Swindon. Swindon is a bit further up in the West Country than I was. The nearest town or city of any note to me was Exeter. Lots of old quaint buildings and buskers stood on street corners. I've only been to Swindon once. I stayed for a weekend visiting a girl who was one branch short of a tree. It reminded me very much of Exeter though. A pretty ( if rundown ) town centre with out-lying estates rarely spoken of. XTC coming from Swindon set them apart a little, it's fair to be said. They weren't exactly at the hub of the burgeoning punk/new wave scene! XTC were formed from the ashes of a group called 'The Helium Kidz'. 'The Helium Kidz' got started around 1975 or so, after glam and before punk - so they weren't exactly either. They'd get a bit better by the time XTC proper were born.

    But let's talk about 'Radios In Motion'! Proof, if it were needed, that XTC wanted to be a pop group all along. The chorus is full of hooks and great 'wooHooOoo' vocal harmonies, the verses full of eye-catching lyrics. A space carnival organ solo sails in through the middle break - and repeat to fade. It's a fantastic song, no question. 'Crosswires' was an early Colin Moulding song, before he'd exactly learnt the art of writing songs, but he was more than game. Built around its impossibly frantic and pounding bass riff, 'Crosswires' is wonderfully silly. The guitars are scratchy over the top - added percussion really. The drums pound along with the bass, the organ goes completely mad. The song sounds wonderful listened to loud! Further proof of XTC's classic pop leanings arrive with 'This Is Pop' which was later sparklingly re-recorded for single release. This album version isn't too bad as it stands though. 'Do What You Do' is perhaps indication XTC hadn't exactly thought too much about lyrical content at this stage. It's very silly, but very silly fun! It raises a smile, but thankfully perhaps, is little over a minute long.

    'Statue Of Liberty'? Well. Andy Partridge had written this song with the intention of writing a hit! It wasn't of course, but really, I fail to see why it wasn't. Classic new wave pop music. The organ isn't quite so strange here and the contributions of one Barry Andrews ( XTC's man of the keys ) border on the genius assimilated into this perfectly structured happy pop song. A strange sounding cover of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' follows. Andy had a habit of barking like a seal rather than actually singing at this stage in XTC's career, partly to be heard at live gigs through crappy PA systems. This style of vocalising is very odd though over dub music that bears only a passing resemblance to the original tune of 'All Along The Watchtower'. A few singalong, simpler, more straightforward guitar led songs appear towards the end of this record that must have sounded great played live. Very danceable bass and drums with that carnival organ sailing through it all. 'Into The Atom' age certainly fits this formula, 'Spinning Top' and 'I'll Set Myself On Fire' do as well. A few of the other songs aren't so great, but hey, there are only a few other songs! Most of this record, although certainly nothing serious, is just good fun. This record gets a bad press sometimes, but forget about all of that. It's no masterpiece, it's slightly demented in places but always happily cartoonishly so.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    On the whole a disappointing debut. 'Radios in Motion', 'Statue of Liberty' and 'This is Pop' are all very fine songs. However with the exception of 'Into the Atom Age', which is just quite good the rest of this album is very poor. At this point Partridge was still developing as a songwriter while the less said the better about Moulding's efforts. 5/10

    Peter Turner Colchester
    I am 37 and was only 5 when 'White Music' came out and was generally suspicious of any punk-era music when I was growing up. I was into the Seattle-scene boom; Nirvana and all that. I didn't realise that XTC even existed. Being into prog rock and pop, this album presents for me a near perfect blending of those two styles. It is intelligent, well constructed, beautifully executed pop music. I loved this album and will be seeking out the next one. I always buy these things in chronological order!

    Paul Watts Australia
    XTC covered "All Along the Watchtower" (incidentally the only cover in the entire XTC canon) for one reason and one reason only. They wanted to be seen as defiling a sacred cow. The could have just as easily made a dub song, changed the lyrics, and called it an original. It grows on you. I liked the dub movement very much, and XTC were at the forefront of it on their first four albums.

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    GO 2 ( 1978 )
    Meccanik Dancing (oh we go) / Battery Brides (Andy paints Brian) / Buzzcity Talking / Crowded Room / The Rhythm / Red / Beatown / Life Is Good In The Greenhouse / Jumping In Gomorrah / My Weapon / Super Tuff / I Am The Audience

    The thumping, organ and guitar stylings of the danceable 'Meccanik Dancing' sets things off in more than fine fashion. One of my very favourite XTC songs with a 'can't wait until the weekend comes' hook that inexplicably never made it to its rightful place in the singles chart - due to the fact the record company didn't want it to be a single! Record companies? Bah! This 'Go 2' album moves on from 'White Music' is some cases, certainly so with 'Meccanik Dancing' and in other cases moves several miles sideways into experimentation. Andy liked messing around in the studio and the rather lovely 'Battery Brides' is an example of this. Andy gives up the seal barking for a semi-sung, semi-spoken vocal that manages to be strangely affecting. The little electronic beeps and buzzes help the song move forwards as well. The organ does a descending little thing here and there. I likes this song! 'Buzzcity Talking' sees the guitars return, but the middle of the song stretches out a little, with weird enjoyable percussive effects and a ringing keyboard sound runs through much of the ending sequence. 'Crowded Room' makes me smile. The bouncy, danceable bass and drums return to fine effect. And, a Colin Moulding song! He was already showing much improvement from their 'White Music debut. 'The Rhythm' you can easily sing along with, strange noises and catchy riffs abound. 'Red' sounds like early Madness, but happily, not so much so that it fails to sound like a good song! Only kidding, Madness fans.... The second side kicks off with the good fun, strange organ led 'Beatown'. Words are thrown around, guitars riff away - decent stuff all round. 'Life Is Good In The Greenhouse' shows the further influence dub music was having on Andy at this stage. Very spacey with lots of echo on the drums.

    'Jumping In Gomorrah' is another of those XTC songs seemingly designed purely to have the kids singing and dancing at live gigs. It's 'White Music' style, cartoonish fun with a shameless singalong chorus featuring the last word of the title spelled out letter by letter. A fantastic middle break though - great organ, fantastic guitar. And now? Well, Barry Andrews, the space carnival keyboard man wanted his own songs on XTC records to join those of Andy and Colin. Now, Andy tolerated Colin's contributions, even welcomed them. They were always very close and grew up on the same estate in Swindon as kids. Barry Andrews, upon presenting his half a dozen new songs to Andy met much resistance though. Part of the reason was Barry's voice and style of writing was just, well, different to Andy and Colins - and Andy was worried about changing too fast, too soon. In any case, a compromise was made and two of Barrys songs made it to the final running order. Nothing too much wrong with the music or vocal performance on 'My Weapon'. The music isn't as jumpy or bouncy as Andys perhaps, but its perfectly fine. The lyric 'I'm gonna take it out on her - with my weapon' (?) pushed quite a bit of actual hate mail towards Barry. 'Super Tuff' is also poor lyrically and fairly unremarkable musically. Colins 'I Am The Audience' picks up the standards, a fine song again showing Colins improvement as a writer. Now, without the two Barry Andrews compositions this record could be seen as a step on from 'White Music' - more varied and assured all round. With them its brought down a little but still works as an enjoyable and listenable set of songs.

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    Paul Macca paul4003@yahoo.com
    I've always thought this album was a huge improvement on White Music - Ok, Barry's efforts let the thing down a bit but for 1978 the album as a whole was pretty avant garde and modern sounding - love the dub 12 inch too.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Even worse than White Music. Meccanik Dancing though somewhat shallow in lyrical content is an early classic However the rest is largely atrocious and sounds extremely dated. 4/10

    oliver uraniumstaub@freenet.de
    I think that this is the best thing XTC have done - the album is so atmospheric. Great songs, great production. And the cover is one of the best esp. the first pressing with the gatefold insert that completes the textual gaps!When Andrews left XTC for me they lost it - OK they are not bad either but nothing compared to this one and WHITE MUSIC!!!

    Scott scott_colby@yahoo.com
    I love both Barry Andrews songs. "My Weapon" is hilarious. Completely sexist and politically incorrect. Not many bands would have the guts to record this song. "Super Tuff" is great fun and compliments "My Weapon" perfectly. The rest of the album is fun too. There are a couple of duds like "Beantown", but overall one of the most fun XTC albums you can get.

    John Kedward Chiang mai Thailand
    I saw the band during this era, once during the Go 2 era and then the following summer with Drums and Wires on release. I liked both gigs but I think they missed some of the experimental quirkiness when Barry Andrews left. A lot of the songs seem half finished on Go2 ; lyrics are sketched doodles or pretty dubious but they sound like they were attempting different rythmic and melodic patterns and were bolder than they would become, at least musically if not lyrically. I have been listening to it again for the first time in decades and most of it still sounds fascinating and funny. So I would give it an 8 at least

    Rijk Zandstra Netherlands
    At closer inspection, this is not such a let down after all. In fact I rate this higher than their debut "White Music". Alright, it is overly quirky and upbeat at times, but this ws the era of punk, new wave and ska. This was a band in search of direction, but here and there signs of what was about to come and what lay ahead in the further future are clearly audible. I would rate this album 7 1/2 for being a promising effort.

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    DRUMS AND WIRES 8 ( 1979 )
    Making Plans For Nigel / Helicopter / Day In Day Out / When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty / Ten Feet Tall / Roads Girdle The Globe / Reel By Reel / That Is The Way / Outside World / Scissor Man / Complicated Game

    Exit Barry Andrews, exit the organ altogether and enter talented guitar player Dave Gregory. The very title of the album reflects the groups resulting new sounds, all 'Drums And Wires'. And! A hit single! At last! Colin suddenly turns into a fantastic songwriter not only managing to receive critical acclaim, but yes, a hit single to his name as well. 'Making Plans For Nigel' has an unsual drum pattern, great lyrics and great little backing vocal parts to enhance an already fine melody. 'Helicopter' recalls Colins 'Crosswires' from 'White Music' - equally as pulsating and demented but with much better, and very funny lyrics as an extra element thrown in. It was considered, but ultimately rejected for single release as a possible follow-up to 'Making Plans For Nigel'. 'Day In Day Out' is so Colin Moulding, if you follow XTC through their releases you'll known what I mean. Very rooted in domesticity and in this case, day to day drudgery. Fantastic guitar parts towards the end of the track, getting louder and running over everything. Wonderfull bass groove throughout the entire song. 'When You're Near Me...' really SHOULD have been a single, its wonderful, but it wasn't a single. Boo! I'd have bought it! Andy and Colin both show an increased sense of commerciality through several of the songs here, a slightly more relaxed sound that their previous demented early material. The fine 'Ten Feet Tall' even employs acoustic guitars. Slightly more demented, well not really demented but certainly all 'wires', is the brilliant 'Roads Girdle The Globe' - an early indication in song of Andys dislike of the motor car.

    'Reel By Reel' kicks off Side Two with a bang, 'Millions' less straightforward to follow but absolutely captivating through its different guitar sounds. 'Outside World' and 'Scissor Man' are something of a throwback to the early 'lets get them dancing' style of XTC song. 'Complicated Game' closes, revelling in XTC's new twin guitar assault. The guitars start very quietly, gradually rising until the end they are absolutely ripping your ears off and Andy increases his vocal intensity to match as the song progresses. A fine album, what can I say?

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    Therese Faison faze2st@msn.com
    This is one of three best XTC albums released. I've always thought it has an experimental feel to it, especially because no two songs on it are at all alike. Like they really had definitive song structures in mind for this outing. This was the very first XTC album I ever owned (actually, in 1979-8track crtrdge), so it has a special meaning to me. It seemed so eclectic and artsy at the same time, very unique.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    There is no doubt that this is the band's first half-decent effort. Nevertheless I think you are being rather generous in giving this an 8. Side two is simply awful with the exception of'Reel by Reel' and to a lesser extent 'Outside World'. 'Complicated Game' is quite funny on first listen but the joke soon wears thin and it's not something you would want to hear again due its total lack of melody. It must seem that I'm always focusing on the negatives so will just say that 'Making Plans for Nigel' is a fine song that deserved to be a hit. There happy now? Actually to be fair, the fist half of the album is pretty good and thus I would give it 6/10 (that's probably a 7 under Adrian's more generous rating scale!)

    Brixton brixton@bluemail.ch
    So far I don't know very well all XTC's work, but from what I know and heard with my ears I think that they're a fantastic pop-rock group, certainly one of the most interesting in the last twenty years. Drums and wires is enough to understand why. Making Plans For Nigel opens the album beautifully, this is simply a perfect pop song, one that you can enjoy instantly and you'll never stop to love. Not all songs on this album are just as immediate as Nigel, perhaps Ten Feet Tall and Reel By Reel. Other songs are destined to be heard at least two or three times to be appreciated (Helicopter, the enthralling Life Begins At The Hop, Outside World, Milions with that nervous guitar riff). Others are really complicated games, but after a first reaction of bewilderment they reveal to be some of the most rewarding songs you can hear! Just listen carefully another time to Roads Girdle The Globe if you don't agree, because it's simply one of the most enchanting compositions I've fou! nd in pop-rock music. Crazy, electric, explosing, it's a mine of invention and creativity. I think it'll be hard for me to find such a masterpiece, even among other XTC's albums. Wonderful! 9.5 or 10

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    The beginning of their 'creative' period.Still, despite the arrival of Dave Gregory on second guitar, this album is still abit patchy.Definitely a step in the right direction though.Moulding outshines Partridge on this too, but not for long......6.5/10.

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    BLACK SEA 9 ( 1980 )
    Respectable Street / Generals And Majors / Living Through Another Cuba / Love At First Sight / Rocket From A Bottle / No Language In Our Lungs / Towers Of London / Paper And Iron (notes and coins) / Burning With Optimism's Flame / Sgt Rock (is going to help me) / Travels In Nihilon

    Just getting better all the time! This album is perhaps the peak of XTC as predominately a guitar led band. More instrumentation and textures would be added into the mixture for future releases. For now though - we have an album of singles! Well, not really, XTC never had many hits, but pretty much every song here sounds like it could have been a hit. The mystery remains, why weren't they hits? 'Generals And Majors' and 'Towers Of London' both did chart, but only in modest fashion. 'Generals And Majors' has fine 'aha!' bits in there. And, thats enough! Dammit, its a wonderful pop song! The entire records sounds so good too, very powerful production really bringing out the best from everyone. 'Living Through Another Cuba' follows on from the likes of 'Helicopter' in the past - but musically is more thoughtful, lyrically it certainly is. 'Love At First Sight' has just such an addictive guitar riff. That alone should have made it number one in the charts! 'Rocket From A Bottle' is taken at a fast, frantic pace but still crams those pop hooks in there. Following all these guitar pop songs, 'No Language In Our Lungs' apart from being wonderful lyrically, slows things down musically. It hits hard both musically and lyrically and is a highlight here.

    'Paper And Iron' has more great guitars, good drum work too, incidently. 'Burning With Optimisms Flames' continues the addictive nature of many of the songs here. They just stay in your mind. The lyrics, well. They certainly are better than XTC of yore. Words with something to say not just words strung together because they sound good. 'Sgt Rock' continues with the guitar riffs and the pop sensibilites. Have we had a weak track yet? No? NO? I mean, we really haven't. Everything here has something to reccomend about it. The closing 'Travels In Nihilon' isn't a pop song at all though. It's seven minutes long and the drums relentless throughout. Fantastic drum sound. A great album, an essential album for fans that should be essential for everyone in an ideal world. <

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    This album benefits a great deal from Steve Lillywhite's outstanding production. It really does have the perfect sound -- it's clean, and you can hear all the instruments really well, but it also sounds raw and live. However, I praise the production right off the bat because I don't think the album has anything else nearly as good going for it. It's a solid record, and all of the songs are more or less catchy (except for the last one); but at the same time, most of these songs don't necessarily blow me away like a lot of XTC's later stuff. They're all well-done, professional rock songs, and good for a few listens, but nothing more. Most of the material on Black Sea does not have the same sublime melodic beauty or quirky genius that embodies so much of the band's output. A perfect example of this album's penchant for average pop music is "Love at First Sight," which is indeed catchy at first, but grows idiotically repetitive after awhile. Even "Generals and Majors" just sounds irritating to me now (sorry, Adrian). "No Language in Our Lungs" has some cool guitar work, but not much of a melody. The pounding "Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)" and skipping reggae of "Burning with Optimism's Flame" are better, but still not THAT special. The album does contain a few exceptional tracks, though, like the engagingly ugly opener "Respectable Street," the furious reggae-spiked political rant "Living Through Another Cuba" (fantastic drumming on this song) and the pleasant "Towers of London." Overall, the album is very good, but I don't understand why XTC fans usually rate it as one of their best. 8/10.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Not quite as keen on this as I used to be. That said I still reckon it edges out English Settlement as the best early period album. My only real criticism is that there is a lack of diversity and as a result it can sometimes be a tiring listen particularly when you've listened to it as many times as I have! Despite that I'd still give this an 8 as there is plenty of good material, of which Respectable Street, Generals and Majors are the standouts for me.

    mark nolan m.nolan@proactivepersonnel.net
    over the years this album has outlasted albums by other celebrated new wave acts of the period. more subtle than u2 more grown up than the cure.ignore pre packaged 80s nostalgia and listen to this and the bunnymens porqupine back to back.we dont all have to be embarrassed by looking back

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    Runaways / Ball And Chain / Senses Working Overtime / Jason And The Argonauts / No Thugs In Our House / Yacht Dance / All Of A Sudden (it's too late) / Melt The Guns / Leisure / It's Nearly Africa / Knuckle Down / Fly On The Wall / Down In The Cockpit / English Roundabout / Snowman

    The present and future of XTC collide in a double album thats like moving into further and further into an exotic forest, always with more to discover the deeper into you get. It won't blow you away on first listen. Or second. Third listen you'll pick out the likes of 'Ball And Chain' - an old style thumpingly loud XTC pop song. You'll pick out more and more with each listen, the acoustic delights of 'Yacht Dance' for example. The opening 'Runaways' which is always hard to pin down but makes you want to listen over and over again perhaps for that very reason. 'Senses Working Overtime' is a highlight of course. Not just of this, or XTC, but of pop music in general. Is it even pop music? It's simply magical, a thing of wonder. A pop music chorus with a counting 'one two three four five' hook. Church bells, a medieval feel, a perfect stucture and progression through the songs various parts all seemlessly stiched together. A top ten hit! 'Jason And The Argonauts' is another of those songs that'll be strange listening initially but in the end enter your brain never to leave. Very hard to describe this song, it's just.....ah! 'Jason And The Argonauts' has such a special atmosphere, a wonderful chorus with a vocal going off in the distance, alluringly so. 'No Thugs In Our House' joins 'Ball And Chain' in being an XTC loud guitar song. Something for everyone!

    'Melt The Guns' and 'All Of A Sudden' are two songs amounting to over eleven minutes of music. No three minute jaunty guitar thrases here - just delightful, semi acoustic music full of unusual structures that still manage to sound natural and addictive. 'Leisure' was dropped from the original American release of this album. I can't for the life of me work out why. I so adore this song! The stretched vocals and pop bits in the middle work well. 'It's Nearly Africa' is a good example of this albums sense of sonic adventure simply by employing different instrumentation than just your regular bass, guitar and drums lineup. 'Down In The Cockpit' and 'Knuckle Down' are both quality XTC songs. 'Fly On The Wall' is the only bad song here, very lifeless and strangely lacking. That's just one song though! There are fifteen songs here, with the fine Colin Moulding 'English Roundabout' and the delightful Andy Partridge 'Snowman' to close.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    I totally agree that this album foreshadowed XTC's more laid-back, sonically rich future, in which they became studio-bound. Several fans I have come across don't care too much for this record, but I would reward it the same rating you gave it. However, I couldn't quite give it a 9, because the production is thin, and the album is a little too long. Regarding the second criticism, I like most of the songs on English Settlement, so it might sound hypocritical of me to argue that the album suffers from overlength. I prefer it as a double album -- the single American edition of the LP ended up dropping some great tracks like "Down in the Cockpit" -- but perhaps one or two of the songs ("Leisure," "It's Nearly Africa") could have been left off, and maybe a few others ("Melt the Guns") could have been trimmed. BTW, you're the ONLY person I've encountered who likes "Leisure," but whatever suits your fancy, ya' know? There are sure a generous dose of classics on here, including "Senses Working Overtime," "Runaways," "Jason and the Argonauts," "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)," "Snowman," "Yacht Dance" and of course, "Cockpit." I even find "Melt the Guns" pretty irresistible these days, even if it does plod along for too long. Anyway, that was half the album to which I rewarded classic status, a sure enough means to run out and buy it if you ask me!

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Good album but would benefit from a bit of editing. most of the tracks are overlong and I could certainly do without 'Melt the Guns' and 'Leisure'. The rest is mostly very good particularly the first seven tracks. deserves a low eight

    Scott scott_colby@yahoo.com
    This is an album that rewards repeated listens. Deserving its double album length with many successful experimentations that would have been trimmed on a single. How can everyone hate "Fly On The Wall"? To me this is a highpoint both lyrically and musically. One of my favorties and I guess a good example of why this needed to be a double album.

    Paulo Paulo2112@hotmail.com
    HI! I've been an XTC fan for quite number of years and always considered this album to be a tad boring. What a fool i was!! It is a very accomplished album and I even like the tracks I once considered to be weak. The album is definetly a grower. Fly On The Wall has a frenetic feel that is wonderfully psychedelic. Leisure is torturously funny to listen to, particaulrly Partsy's sax playing. Dwon In The Cokpit has an early 80's Zappa feel to it. Love the spooky vocal rant in Melt the Guns and the cyclic acid mid section riff of Jason and the Argonauts. And then you have all the quality songs amongst it. It is a kniockerbockerglory of an album. A lot of different tastes to devour but once eaten, you'll be very stuffed but satisfied.

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    I also feel like adrian that 'Knuckle Down' deserves a mention, but there is just so much quality on here. As has been stated, it's definitely a forerunner to the 'studio bound' albums of the future. When i first heard the album i didnt stop playing it for about two months straight, there's so much quality to unravel over repeated listens. Sure there's some filler,but even this is still palatable and musically interesting.Still, worth a listen for 'Senses...' and 'Jason and the argonauts' alone!One of the great underrated double albums. 8.5/10

    James San Fran
    I've always found this album to be hugely overrated. Masterpiece? Really? It's ambitious, yes, and it has it's moments, but that's just it: It has way too many of them. This album could lose every track from "Melt the Guns" on and be none the worse, and several of the tracks should be at least minute or two shorter.I could grant a much shorter, edited version of English Settlement an 8/10, but as it stands, it's a 6/10 at best.

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    MUMMER ( 1983 )
    Beating Of Hearts / Wonderland / Love On A Farmboy's Wages / Great Fire / Deliver Us From The Elements / Human Alchemy / Ladybird / In Loving Memory Of A Name / Me And The Wind / Funk Pop A Roll

    Andy Partridge quit touring during promotional duties for 'English Settlement'. XTC had been driven to tour and tour and tour by their management. They never saw much money from it though - a poor contract deal saw to that. The pressure got to Andy in particular, and he just quit touring and suffered something of a breakdown. This was the first album not only by the newly non touring XTC but their first as a three piece following the departure of drummer Terry Chambers. You might expect given all the turmoil surrounding the group that this would be a tense and perhaps even angry album to match that turmoil. It actually continues in a sense from the mellow sides of 'English Settlement'. 'Beating Of Hearts' isn't a million miles removed from 'Runaways' for example. Colin comes up trumps with the amazingly quiet 'Wonderland' - a beautiful melody and no guitars at all. 'Love On A Farmboys Wages' is so evocative lyrically, very romantic. 'Deliver Us From The Elements' is one heck of a Colin Moulding song and sounds like it should be playing as background to a particularly cunning piece of plot development in a movie somewhere.

    'Human Alchemy' repeats the feeling on intial listening to 'English Settlement' of confusion and bewilderment. No obvious, in your melody but it is relaxing in feel and great listened to at night. 'Great Fire' is one of the few noisy songs - added to the album at the last minute and as well as being a mighty fine tune, a hint at the following years album perhaps. 'Ladybird' is so unassuming but so damn charming. A brilliant, McCartneyesque piece of mellow, unambitious pop music that just works so very well. 'In Loving Memory Of A Name' continues Colins strong contributions to this album, the closing two songs both fine and accomplished Andy Partridge songs. 'Funk Pop A Roll' is the nearest thing here to a 'Black Sea' kind of song, almost old style XTC but not quite, not quite as furious ultimately. A fine album this, very mellow and relaxing, well paced and sequenced. Ten songs, that's your lot. There aren't any sheer moments of brilliance here perhaps, no 'Senses Working Overtime' certainly. This is never going to 'wow' anyone, but get into it, and you'll be glad of this pastoral and elegant piece of work.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    This album gets a lot of flack from fans, but it's not all that bad -- it's just not as stunningly brilliant as almost everything else the band put out. No, there is nothing mind-blowing here. It's even softer and more pastoral than its predecessor was, and band's sporadic new wave edges have almost all been sanded off. unfortunately, as a result, the hooks are not as strong on here either. But the album sure has a way of growing on a person, and "Human Alchemy" is the only downright unlistenable song in my opinion. Side one is actually very consistent, containing the album's three singles, "Great Fire," Wonderland" and "Love on a Farmboy's Wages." All of these songs are highlights, as is the inspiring opener "Beating of Hearts." The second half is not as strong as the first, but its pleasant enough for the most part, and the enduring anti-war song "In Loving Memory of a Name" and abrasive rocker "Funk Pop A Roll" are two of my favorites here. Don't start here by any means, but it's worth a look if you're a fan. 7/10.

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    Underrated this one.It's often criticised for it's agrarian, laid back feel, but i just love the delicate atmosphere of it all.It perfectly captures Partridge's fragile post-breakdown mood. Also, 'Funk Pop and Roll', 'Beating of Hearts' and 'Loving Memory...' are great! 7.5/10

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    THE BIG EXPRESS 7 ( 1984 )
    Wake Up / All You Pretty Girls / Shake You Donkey Up / Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her / This World Over / Everyday Story Of Smalltown / I Bought Myself A Liarbird / Reign Of Blows / You're The Wish (you are) I Had / I Remember The Sun / Train Running Low On Soul Coal

    Andy wanted to 'go noisy' again. And, with the aid of a Linn drum machine of all things, that's exactly what you get here. And, isn't 'Wake Up' just one of the finest album openers ever? Well, I think so. The guitars attack you from alternate speakers, taking turns to blast your ears. Colin sings with some force and the 'who cares?' backing parts add to the occasion as well. Maybe I can detect a little Talking Heads in the feel of the song, but that's ok. It's still fantastic! A rattle of the electronic Linn drum opens 'All You Pretty Girls'. A sea shanty! XTC attention to detail includes 'heaving' semi audible backing vocals. They certainly sound like they are fun all throughout the wonderful 'Shake You Donkey Up. Especially when a little fiddle part comes floating in from nowhere and the song proceeds to go insane for a period before returning to its hook laden chorus. Have we had a bad song yet? Not really, no. Given the XTC trouble of years immediately prior to this, such a happy album full of noise and life is remarkable. The electronic drums aren't offensive at all either, in case you were wondering. Andy has always fancied himself ( as a drummer! ) and programmed the Linn drum machine for this record. It was costly and time consuming and not something anybody wanted to do again, but we have it here - all thumping precision.

    'This World Over' quietens things down for a while. A mid-paced song but a wonderfully beautiful and affectingly tender Andy Partridge vocal and a fine melody. And, the hits just keep on coming! 'The Everyday Story Of Smalltown' is a great pop song with noisy drums and good pounding bass and a chorus that will have you singing in the morning. 'I Bought Myself A Liarbird' joins 'Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her' from the first side of the record in having a great set of intriguing lyrics. 'I Bought Myself A Liarbird' is reputedly about a former manager of XTC and well, just listen. A fine song in any case with some nice exotic guitar - and everything is well. 'Reign Of Blows' is simply astonishingly noisy, all drums and guitars, harmonica too! A twisted, messed up vocal - everything is louder than everything else. Are we heading towards a classic XTC album? Well, 'You're The Wish ( you are ) I Had' has its moments for sure not least sunny Beach Boys style harmonies - but by this stage the sheer noise of everything makes you yearn for another 'This World Over'. 'I Remember The Sun' is certainly filler for the most part with only the 'most of all, I remember the sun...' vocal refrain to end rescuing it at all. The closing track has such elaborate production, is so very loud.....but this time the song simply doesn't warrant it. 'Train Running Low On Soul Coal' is just an innocous little tune blown up to 100 times a sensible level of loudness and comes across as being slightly fussy. A shame about these closing few songs, the album is silly tremendous fun until around two-thirds of it has gone whereupon only scraps and fragments remain.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    I've always enjoyed this album a lot. I used to think more highly of it than I do now (I've grown a smidgen tired of it, admittedly), but I can still reward it a full 8. The production is awfully flat and cold, and some of these arrangements are too excessive and noisy ("Shake Your Donkey Up," "Train Running Low on Soul Coal"). But the album is still a winner in my book, mostly because this stuff is just CATCHY!! How could anyone not love that dissonant riffing and bleak chorus of "Wake Up"? Just masterful. "All You Pretty Girls" and "Everyday Story of a Smalltown" are pure fun. "This World Over" is not the instantly danceable affair of the other highlights, of course, but it's probably the most accessible track on here, and the melody is pretty; the lyrics are creepy and sobering. And I for one think the dreamy "You're the Wish You Are I Had" and jazzy "I Remember the Sun" are wonderful! In addition to great pop hooks, sometimes all of the band's risky sound embellishments render a song engaging too -- such is the case with "Seagulls Screaming (Kiss Her, Kiss Her)," coupled with cool, introspective lyrics. The song doesn't have much going for it melody-wise, but that circus organ main riff augmented by all the loud bass and horns is still quite captivating if you give it enough chances. Can't say I like "I Bought Myself a Liarbird" though. Last but not least, The Big Express is a monumental release for XTC, as it demonstrates the band very comfortable and efficient in the studio for the first time; as such, it's the transitional work that introduces their newer sound (even though one can still hear hints of new wave in songs like "Wake Up"). Recommended.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    This must be XTC's most underrated album. It's really difficult to get into, but in time it reveals itself to be a pretty fine effort. The only poor tracks are 'Shake You Donkey Up', 'Reign of Blows' and 'I Remember the Sun'. Otherwise its good all the way through. Adrian, I urge you to re-consider your rating of 7 (Come on that's lower than what you gave Mummer!)

    Scott scott_colby@yahoo.com
    Now you have my attention. "I remember The Sun" and "Train Running Low On Soul Coal" are two of the finest things XTC has ever done. How can you deny the way Train builds up or the awesome melody of Sun. At least you appreciate "I bought myself a Liarbird" so I guess I can relate a bit to your reviews.

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    I agree that 'Train Running Low On Soul Coal'is one of the band's best moments, despite the horrendously overpowering production!Also, Andy has always been very proud of his work on this album. Still, for me, although this is a million times better then almost any other band at their peak, this is still one of the band's 'lesser' efforts, ranking above 'White Music', 'Go2' and 'Drums...' but below everything else!

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    SKYLARKING ( 1986 )
    Summer's Cauldron / Grass / Meeting place / That's Really Super Supergirl / Ballet For A Rainy Day / 1000 Umbrellas / Season Cycle / Earn Enough For Us / Big Day / Another Satellite / Mermaid Smiled / Man Who Sailed Around His Soul / Dying / Sacrificial Bonfire

    Crickets announce the coming of Summer, birds twitter - you can almost see the heat rising in the air, you can see the sun and bees buzzing past your ear. The melody begins, the singing opens and it breaks your heart. I so very much love 'Summers Cauldron'. I can listen to it over and over and over - repeat play. It really is that good. There is no obvious 'look at me, i'm a melody' melody running through it, which helps ultimately. It's a shifting song and very evocative. You really can SEE the song in the air in front of you! And, one of producer Todd Rundgrens tricks for this record was a 'Sgt Pepper' style flowing of one track straight into the next. Transitions! The transitions are almost songs in themselves. The way 'Summer Cauldron' ends and floats dreamily into Colin Mouldings dreamy enough already 'Grass' is a thing to behold. Again, 'Grass' isn't a song that hits you in the face. It's an elegant song, a romantic song that once again impresses images in your mind. A wonderfully relaxed melody that ends by returning to the opening of 'Summers Cauldron' and then moves into a clockwork sound to announce the start of a working day. Shifting mechanical sounds, sounding wonderful. Fabulous production and attention to detail. Once 'The Meeting Place' proper beings it reveals itself to be a brilliant pop song with a chorus that sticks in your brain, lovely little piano sections and everything is correct. A wonderfully structured song and a piece of Colin Moulding brilliance. It's followed by Andys 'That's Really Super Supergirl' which is sunshine itself, so very happy and uplifting.

    'Ballet For A Rainy Day'. The name itself has a certain magic and poetry about it. A wonderful vocal performance from Andy is a highlight of this and the Piano returns too. Very good lyrics and little Beach Boys style harmonies. Another brilliant transition marks the arrival of '1000 Umbreallas'. A sick sounding string section creates the illusion of rain, the melody jumps around in support of this. The whole song is very orchestral sounding and points the way towards XTC's much later 'Apple Venus Vol One' album. The finest song arrives slap bang in the middle, a fine place to put the finest song. Here XTC manage almost to outdo The Beach Boys themselves - you've just got to love the 'Summer chased by autumn....' vocal section. The first nosier guitar track arrives with 'Earn Enough For Us'. Not many guitar led songs on this 'Skylarking' album so this is most welcome. 'Big Day' follows with its tales of weddings, great bass playing and fine Colin Moulding song writing ability!

    Things suddenly get serious for 'Another Satellite' which puts XTC back up into space - a place they hadn't been since their first two comic book styled albums. This is a far more serious composition than those early efforts though, however charming and fun they may have been. This is a touching love song and a plea of devotion. Which would all be well, if Andy hadn't later ran off with the lady in question who was 'the other satellite'! Well, 'ran off' is putting it a bit strongly perhaps, he remained devoted to his first marriage for a long while before admitting to himself it was over. I love the guitar that opens 'Mermaid Smiled' which is as good a piece of Andy Patridge brilliance as he's ever created. The jazzy 'Man Who Sailed Around His Soul' helps add variety to the record as well as managing to be very accomplished within its jazz influenced style. 'Dying' is another heartbreaker - the sound of a clock ticking, a guitar, occasional bass and Colin Moulding. Little else is present and little else needs to be. The vocal harmonies that end again recall The Beach Boys of 'Pet Sounds' - The Beach Boys at their very finest. 'Sacrificial Bonfire' closes the album and closes the circle that begun with 'Summers Cauldron'. I like that sense of this record being whole, being thoughtful in concept and being complete.

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    Dan Menashe dcm@warwickschool.org
    This album is a real tour de force. From the moment the crickets chirp in on the sublime "Summer's cauldron", the tone is set for a uplifting album. The opening track merges superbly into "Grass", a song of summer and youth as evocative as there has been. "The Meeting Place" has always had a passing resemblance to the theme from Trumpton. One of XTC's less impressive singles, but a decent effort. The tone picks up with the infectiously catchy "That's really super supergirl". Two glorious ballads follow in "Ballet for a rainy day" and "1,000 umbrellas" with lush piano and string sections. "Season's cycle" rounds off the opening side, appropriately as we move away from summer, and is one of the finest songs that Andy ever wrote. Side two does not quite match the dizzy heights of side one, but shows a greater variety of musical styles including even the jazzy "The man who sailed around his soul". "Earn enough for us" reminds me of the rawness of Early Beatles songs, but "Anothe! r satellite" and "Dying" don't quite do it for me. Still,it has to be one of the best fivers I ever spent!

    Simon B., slb23@shaw.ca
    I really like Side One, but I almost never listen to Side Two. The transition from "Summer's Caulron" to "Grass" is really wonderful; and "The Meeting Place", "That's Really Super, Supergirl" and "Season Cycle" are really catchy pop songs. I find "1000 Umbrellas", isn't as great as the rest of Side One, but it still has a great string section. Best Songs: "Summer's Cauldron" "Grass", "Meeting Place", "That's Really Super Supergirl", "Ballet For A Rainy Day", and "Season Cycle". 6/10

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Sorry to be contrary but I think this is slightly overrated. Skylarking is probably XTC's most consistent album. However in my view its best songs aren't quite up to the standard of those on the band's other albums. Despite this I still consider it to be one of their best efforts. I particularly enjoy the first half but in all fairness it is good all the way through apart from The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul and Big Day. Thus I would give it 8.5/10

    Scott scott_colby@yahoo.com
    Boy do we have different tastes. I can appreciate the beauty of this album, but it also contains some of XTC's worst songs. "1000 Umbrellas" is the worst song I have ever heard. A masterwork? What? Plus, "Ballet For A Rainy Day", "Thats Really Super, Supergirl", and "The Meeting Place" are all duds that bring down this album further, but the rest is very enjoyable. Another strong XTC album.

    Don bigblueskys@msn.com
    This album out-Beatles the Beatles.On this album Partridge&Mouding become Lennon & Mccartney 'Todd is George Martin.This is thier Sgt Pepper.

    Paul paulwatts@optushome.com.au
    From its inception in the mid 1970s, XTC regarded itself as a pop band. Its early material was certainly abrasive and brash new-wave pop, but as the albums went by the wrinkles were gradually ironed out. A decade into its existence, XTC delivered Skylarking. As a work of pure gimmick-free perfectly crafted pop songs, Skylarking has very few equals indeed. Quite simply, this is arguably the craftsman of pop songs of the late 20th century at pretty much the peak of his powers. Andy Partridge has created a wealth of great pop music, and each and every XTC album has a share of it, but few if any match Skylarking for sheer number of wonderful pop songs. All of them, with one notable exception, are excellent or better. As has been done already, it is easy to compare this recording with the Beatles Revolver/Sgt Pepper era and to some extent the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, and XTC emerge very favourably indeed in this hallowed company. It must be remembered of course ! that these 60s masters are the very influences behind much of Skylarking, and XTC's music in general. Compared to Skylarking, Sgt Pepper for instance seems quite patchy, with a few weak songs and some experiments that don't hold up all that well these latter days. There is nothing experimental on Skylarking. Superb pop hooks abound.

    My favourites are Season Cycle, Ballad For a Rainy Day/1000 Umbrellas (which is really two songs with similar lyrical themes but quite different musical styles merged together), Earn Enough for Us, Mermaid Smiled, Supergirl, Meeting Place....I won't go on, all 14 songs on the original Skylarking release are just magical. Unfortunately, the CD now contains one clunker at the very end. It is beyond me how the US took Dear God to its heart but not the original Skylarking. The album did move some units but nowhere near the number it deserved to. Dear God was recorded at the same approximate time but doesn't sound like it belongs on! this record. There have been a few different configu! rations of the tracks, including the omission of the utterly delightful Mermaid Smiled on the US release (I cannot possibly imagine that XTC approved of this change), but Dear God now closes the 15- track CD. Andy Partridge has been guilty a few times in his career of cloying lyrics, and a couple of those have been when attacking the Christian religion. He really should give it a miss. Dear God doesn't have the same pop sensibility of the other 14 songs, and its easy to see why XTC originally released it as a B side (of Colin Moulding's Grass, also one of the lesser lights on the LP- why not Season Cycle as a leading single- pop doesn't come catchier than this). I far prefer Andy singing about the things he holds dear as on Season Cycle than decrying the beliefs of others. It is quite an immature lyric that has him excusing himself to God, then blaming Him for all that is wrong with the world, and finally concluding "I don't believe in you". This song bugs me horrendously, enough to! deduct half a point from my rating. It would have been a full point but Dear God wasn't supposed to be on Skylarking. Rating the same as Adrian's- 9.5.

    Chris chrisfret2004@yaho.co.uk
    Skylarking is a truely exceptional album!! one of my all-time favourite albums, from one of my all-time favourite bands! So many things to mention about this: how wonderful the songwriting of Partridge and Moulding is,how masterful the production (despite andy's apparent misgivings!)and how far the band has come since it's art punk inception of 1977.One of the few albums to be truely perfect.should have been massive.10/10!!

    Bagu Guiness
    An album out of time and place. For me it evokes the summer of 1987 but does not seem entirely out of step with the 21st century. An unhappy but fortuitous meeting of artist and producer. A nod should be given to the Prairie Prince for his impeccable time keeping. Skylarking was the best release of its year if not the entire decade. 10/10.br>
    Chris WelchEssex
    The album where everything clicked. The perfect mix of Beatles/Beachboys and Kinks with terrific lyrics, inventive and lush arrangements and both Andy and Colin at the top of their game. Respect also to Dave Gregory who, musically, is the driving force behind Skylarking.Sgt Pepper for the 80's.

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    25 O Clock / Bike Ride To The Moon / My Love Explodes / What In The World / Your Gold Dress / The Mole From The Ministry / Vanishing Girl / Have You Seen Jackie? / Little Lighthouse / You're A Good Man Albert Brown / Collideascope / You're My Drug / Shiny Cage / Brainiac's Daughter / The Affiliated / Pale And Precious

    XTC take a holiday. They do this by hiring a time-machine and landing slap bang in the middle of 60s pyschedelia. Suitably inspired by what they see and hear, they return home with tapes of songs recorded under the influence, title the project Dukes Of Stratosphear and invent silly names for themselves. An EP and a full length album are released either side of XTC proper 'Skylarking' and hey presto! The world is very impressed, even if they don't believe the story about time-travel and visiting planet smile. Ah, but this is also the story of John Leckie. The producer Mr Leckie was inundated with offers of work following his production trickery here. These songs do indeed sound authentically 60s in terms of production, arrangements and instrumentation used. Are these songs to be taken seriously? Well, not really. XTC lost their shackles and had fun with the material. Andy's songs are the more authentic, Colin contributes solidly without ever reaching the heights of Andy's finest songs here. Ah, reference points off the top of my head. Beatles circa Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds and Smile. Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Loads more besides. 'You're My Drug' for instance with its guitar sound and aeroplane sounds reminds of 'Fifth Dimension' era Byrds, and does so very well. Tons of 'tune', you see. These aren't merely excersizes in novelty, underneath the production and the arrangements we've got a bunch of proper tunes. 'Have You Seen Jackie' has funny lyrics, echoes of Syd and more besides, and besides, the chorus has a great foot-stomping type section which delights everyone in our house, I can tell you. Similarly fun is 'My Love Explodes' which out nuggets, 'Nuggets'.

    Ah, highlights? Well, there aren't any lowlights as such, but i've absolutely got to mention 'Pale And Precious'. It adds together 'Good Vibrations', 'God Only Knows' and 'Heroes And Villians' by The Beach Boys. So, not entirely original then, but that's kind of besides the point when discussing The Dukes Of Stratosphear, anyway. What do we have? Well beautiful vocals in the quieter sections accompanied by 'bum bum bow' backing and a church organ. The 'Pet Sounds' type rhythm comes in and then the song reaches another level with beautifully observed 'Up She Rises' Mike Love type backing vocals and a high falsetto apeing Brian/Carl Wilson at their finest. And, oh the ending. The ending is one of the best things in music EVER. It's as beautiful, if not more so, than that great 'God Only Knows' ending and it reduces me to tears. Well, i'm a huge Beach Boys fan and Andy and Co outdo themselves with 'Pale And Precious', they really do. Other fine highlights? I adore '25 O Clock', its got a great bass-line for one. 'Vanishing Girl' has stunning harmonies and an equally as impressive pop-nous running all the way through it. There were people that genuinely thought these songs were lost 60s artefacts. Once it was known XTC were behind the project, respect for them only increased. It gave them a huge dollop of credibility, especially in the US and set up XTC for their late 80s success they enjoyed over there. Oh, quick mention for 'You're A Good Man Albert Brown' which with its spoken intro apes The Small Faces. In fact, with its whole silly nature, apes The Small Faces at their most playful. It's also a Kinks kind of thing, its lots of things. Much like the Dukes project as a whole, working on many different levels. The best music often does. Get it today.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Quite possibly the best thing they ever did. Yes, it is a complete rip off but its a brilliant one and I would take this over Skylarking any day.

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    This is just so brilliant!A total rip off, but surely only Partridge and Moulding would have the audacity and talent to pull-off something like this!The last track is arguably close to anything Brian Wilson ever did!That good!9/10

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    Its a fun record ,spotting all the sonic references here to revolver,ogdens ,nuggets,pretty things,beach boys, early floyd,bits of satanic majesties . The bass playing in particular is amazing , very much in the mccartney late 60s mode . I dont know much about XTC and im not sure if i would return to this often but i rather enjoyed it .

    Ashley Pomeroy arp@slab.org
    I dislike XTC immensely. I have always thought of them as being clever and calculating and fake, like Steely Dan. But I love this album because the clever calculating fakeness works. The first half is catchy and entertaining, and the production sounds less old-fashioned than typical mid-80s pop. Even the band's flat, rural-sounding vocals have an otherworldly air. It's a shame that XTC didn't give up on being XTC and plow their neo-psychedelic furrow full-time. This strikes me as one of those quietly influential records that lit a small fire, but remains obscure today. That is all I have to say. Continue.

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    Garden Of Earthly Delights / Mayor Of Simpleton / King For A Day / Here Comes President Kill Again / The Loving / Poor Skeleton Steps Out / One Of The Millions / Scarecrow People / Merely A Man / Cynical Days / Across The Antheap / Hold Me Daddy / Pink Thing / Minature Sun / Chalkhills And Children

    Todd Rundgren out of the picture, and partly at Virgin Records behest, XTC found themselves working with rookie producer Paul Fox for this set of recordings. And boy does it sound horrible. A fifteen track ( double vinyl ) album with no thoughtful sequencing, no subtly in the mix - everything sounds very narrow and pushed together. Whether this was the fault of the producer, the engineer or whoever - i don't know. The songs are pretty much fine but they were almost certainly worked out before entering the recording studio proper. The opening 'Garden Of Earthly Delights' is almost an exiciting song but sounds over fussy in its mess of noise. 'The Major Of Simpleton' is a good pop song that deserved a better recording than this. Colin has only three songs here compared to twelve by Andy. I love Colins contributions to XTC albums and his first song here, 'King For A Day' although bearing a passing resemblance to Tears For Fears wins through due to its smooth pop nouse. The end of the first side ( of the old vinyl version ) is wrapped up with Andys lyrically interesting 'Here Comes The President Kill Again'.

    'The Loving' has a friend in Colins 'King For A Day' being smoothly commercial and perfectly acceptable pop music. Things do get more interesting for 'Poor Skeleton Steps Out' which includes odd percusion and great bass rhythms. 'One Of The Millions' is another fine if not astonishing Colin song and Andys 'Scarecrow People' ends side two with some nice guitar sounds. The noisy 'Merley A Man' is a highlight, a very poppy chorus could have made this a single. The guitar is a little too heavy metal though in places and sounds odd on an XTC record. Going for broke in America? The album was in any case declared a success - especially when it started climbing up Billboard. 'Cynical Days' has great Colin Moulding lyrics, 'Across The Antheap' a nice jazz feel in the introduction.

    'Hold Me My Daddy is a song too many - turgid melodically and hardly an XTC career highlight. 'Pink Thing' is just good fun, 'Minature Sun' interesting lyrically if not musically. There is a final song. The only piece of real brilliance on the entire overlong, overproduced record. 'Chalkhills And Children' is very 'God Only Knows' and that's a compliment! One of Andys finest ever compositions and for once not suffering under the weight of the proiduction. Definitely below par for XTC this album though. Many of the actual songs are fine, but not many of these fine songs make it to being special songs.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    This album is overproduced, obviously, but I don't think it's QUITE as bad as you say it is. Most of the songs themselves overflow with too much studio trickery, but there are still a lot of good ideas here, and there are some good hooks buried under most of these gaudy concoctions. "The Mayor of Simpleton," "The Loving," "One of the Millions" and "Chalkhills and Children" are all classics, but that goes without saying. "King for a Day" is derivative, like you said, although still very good. These may be the only instantly-likable songs on the album, but there are also some engaging experimental numbers on here as well, songs that don't necessarily have solid melodies but are still laden with intriguing ideas. I personally love "Scarecrow People," bluesy slide-guitar work and somber chorus and all. "Here Comes President Kill Again" isn't very strong musically, but the lyrics are a kick in the pants nonetheless. Even the convoluted acid jazz of "Miniature Sun" sounds cool too me, even though everyone else seems to hate it. And I LIKE "Garden of Earthly Delights" A LOT; endlessly engaging. I can't say I care much for "Poor Skeleton Steps Out," though -- cartoonish melody and silly soulful, black church choir backing vocals after the chorus -- kind of dumb if you ask me. But a good album overall. It's flawed, and it takes some effort getting used to, but Oranges and Lemons is a fairly rewarding listen. 8/10

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    This comes as a huge disappointment after Skylarking. The production is awful and too many of the songs just aren't up to scratch. The only real classics here are 'Mayor of Simpleton' and 'Chalkhills'. There are a few other good songs but overall I would have to agree with your rating of 6.5

    Paulo paulo2112@hotmail.com
    I think your criticism of this album is very harsh. I have to say it is my all time favourite XTC album. Yes, the production is incredible busy but at least the instruments sound as if they've been miked up properly (unlike skylarking). It was miniature sun that got me hooked onto this wonderful band. That song is pure psychadelia (a la The Dukes). At least we agree on chalkhills and children.

    Scott Smith painocomposer@hotmail.com
    The Oranges and Lemons recording is my favorite by XTC, even better than Skylarking (although that one has slowly grown on me). To complain that something is over-produced is on criticism if you don't like production. As a songwriter and producer, I appreciate how tightly and professionally these songs were done. But, as a songwriter, my main point is that the songwriting is VERY strong on this album. There's not a bad song on the album, IMO, and Chalkhills and Children is one of the finest songs by XTC or any other band of this type. Sorry to disagree with you on this, but O&L is one of XTCs finest albums and many others tend to agree. Don't believe me? Check out http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005ATHN/102-9502045-3159362?v=glance&n=5174 or http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/xtc/albums/album/260407/rid/6211360/ . If the Amazon.com and the Rolling Stones both like it, that pretty much covers the people and the critics.

    Chris chrisf@adriandenning.co.uk
    I'm staggered at the reponses to this album;it surely ranks as one of XTC's best records. Ok, the production is very busy sounding, but it's also clear and punchy and the songs are almost always amazing. It's always been a favourite amongst fans too I believe. Just listen to the mind-boggling arrangements and fantastic musicianship and along with all this, melodies as good as on Skylarking! I urge people to relisten! Especially worth buying for 'The Loving', 'Scarecrow People' and 'Mayor of Simpleton', but all 15 songs are genuinely excellent. 10/10

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    NONSUCH ( 1992 )
    Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead / My Bird Performs / Dear Madam Barnum / Humble Daisy / Smartest Monkeys / Disappointed / Holly Up On Poppy / Crocodile / Rook / Omnibus / That Wave / Then She Appeared / War Dance / Wrapped In Grey / Ugly Underneath / Bungalow / Books Are Burning

    Veteran and former Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon produced this set. No rookie producer here! But! It was mixed, then re-mixed due to the fact Andy and co HATED the original mixes produced by Gus. Poor bloke. Nick Davis who had worked on, of all things, Genesis's 'We Can't Dance' album got picked to help remix the record. The song-writing is generally of a strong standard here, especially Colins little gems. We'll get onto those later. We have the slightly clumsy and obvious single 'Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead' to open. It's not offensive just ok. It's alright. BUT HOW GOOD IS 'My Bird Performs'? HEY? HOW GOOD IS THE LATER ON IN THE ALBUM 'Bungalow'? HEY? Damn good, that's how good they are. Best two songs on the entire record, for me. Two songs so very good, they give 'good' a better name than it might have had as a word before Colin had written these two songs! Ok, i'll settle down in a minute. 'Dear Madam Barnum' manages to follow an impossibly high Colin Moulding peak with poppy 'hey, hey' vocals and a fine tune. Andy wasn't going to let Colin steal the whole show! No! Not at all! A very special Andy song appears towards the end of the album as well, by the way. I'll mention it later.

    We have hightlights all around, but strangely, this fails to be a perfect album. 'The Disapointed' made a strange single - taking a good ten listens at least to reveal its charm. 'Holly Up On Poppy' features some slightly strained vocals even if it's a good tune. 'Crocodile' is suitably biting and fun but a sequence of songs on the second half of this, just merley quite good. I'm talking about 'Omnibus' and 'That Wave' mostly. 'Then She Appeared' has its moments and some fine lyrics, no problem. Colins 'War Dance' is so strange you've just got to smile. It sounds like.....i don't know. That's what it sounds like! Well, its shuffling, the lyrics don't sound like XTC lyrics at all but the whole thing still wins through and makes you smile all the same. 'The Ugly Underneath' starts well but doesn't quite hold your attention. Andy writes 'Wrapped In Grey' a lovely, soothing gem of a song. A semi-masterpiece with Piano and stupendously great Carl Wilson inspired vocals. This whole seventeen track album is wrapped up ( but not in grey ) by Andys 'Books Are Burning' - certainly a very worthwhile lyrical subject matter. Who'd want to burn books anyway? A mid-tempo tune - the lyrics are enough to make you cry. But not in grey? No. Why did I write that anyway? Dammit, i'm losing it! Lets just say it's a good album!

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    Simon Brigham slb23@shaw.ca
    I'm sorry, but I'll have to disagree with you here. The majority of the songs on this album are just not that great. They're definately not terrible, (well, "Crocodile" could be considered terrible, I guess) but they're not incredibly excellent either. Best songs "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" (my favourite on the album), "My Bird Performs" (great vocals), "Disappointed" (good shuffle-like-beat), "Rook" (just plain eerie, but good), "Books Are Burning" (good ending song with good guitar solos).

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Still not sure about this one. Definitely an improvement on Oranges and Lemons but musically I find it quite dull. Partridge's singles are good and Moulding finally provides some good songs again in 'My Bird Performs' and 'Smartest Monkeys'But his other two songs are awful. Would probably give this 7/10

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    Agree with Mark Evans (obviously a proper XTC nut like myself!).This is good but a little patchy and overlong. The scintillating diversity of 'Oranges...' has been replaced by a meandering, confused feel. It just seems less magical to me, missing that special XTC spark.Still 'Peter Pumpkinhead', 'Disappointed' etc are great.7/10.

    Roger Hennie grafisk@smevideo.no
    This is probably XTCs best album IMO. My Bird Performs/Rook/Omnibus/Books are Burning (a response to the reactions on Salman Rushdies book, remember, books WERE burning, and so was eventually people)./Wrapped in Grey and so on. A number of classic tracks. Thge album is at least a 9/10!

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    APPLE VENUS VOL ONE ( 1999 )
    River Of Orchids / I'd Like That / Easter Theatre / Knights In Shining Karma / Frivolous Tonight / Greenman / Your Dictionary / Fruit Nut / I Can't Own Her / Harvest Festival / Last Balloon

    After a seven year break from making records, XTC finally won their freedom from Virgin and set about recording a new album. Lots of songs had built up over those seven years and the intention was to make a single double album before lack of finances stopped that idea. Instead, they split the new songs recording a set of orchestral based tunes first of all, for this - with rockier songs to follow. Does it work? Well, 'River Of Orchids' sees XTC reborn anew, totally. Strange noises created by brass and string instruments and a mature lyric following on in terms of subject matter from the likes of 'Roads Girdle The Globe' in the past. 'River Of Orchids' is a fine song, a cyclical song that goes round in circles and also the one song that got me into this whole XTC thing in the first place! 'I'd Like That' follows the very strange but strangely addictive 'River Of Orchids' by presenting itself as a simple, semi-acoustic Paul McCartneyesque pop number. Quite charming it is too, with nice little harmony parts. 'Easter Theatre' is simply superb, a storming orchestral pop song that crescendos in a flurry of strings - the entire song is thrilling and a real piece of brilliance. 'Knights In Shining Karma' quietens things down, sounds very close up to the listener. A very sweetly played and sung tune. All the songs so far on this 'Apple Venus Vol One' record have been Andy Partridge songs. Colin does have a couple of songs here, both typically idiosyncratic offerings. 'Frivolous Tonight' sounds less orchestral than Andys offerings but the lyrics are charming, 'Fruit Nut' is bordering on novelty, very odd but still fun in its own odd kind of way.

    'Greenman' is the noisiest song here, very little guitar though. Dave Gregory, with the band since 'Drums And Wires' left part way through the recording of this album, unhappy with the groups new direction. He'd already contributed to virtually all of the songs here - so it didn't make too much difference in terms of this record, at least. 'Greenman' is possibly too long, thats my only complaint. It runs on for over six minutes and doesn't really justify that length. 'Your Dictionary' i'm also uncomfortable with - the lyrics are very close to home with regards to Andy and Colins breakup with Virgin records. A little too close for comfort, though the song isn't bad in itself - a nice piano and string break in the middle is good listening. Three ballads to close the album. Two might have been ok, three is one too many! Still they are all good ballads, especially the gorgeous heartbreaking 'I Can't Own Her'. 'The Last Balloon' is also very nicely done although a little on the long side. A fine comeback, this album though. No, it isn't perfect - but 'Easter Theatre' probably is! An audacious way to return to the music scene. No easy, poppy commercial return for XTC!

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    some comments on the songs. River of orchids is good only when the trumpets enter at the beginning (a way too long beginning) the rest of it i think is embarrssing and annoying and a little immature. Andy is immature though but its not that great heartbreaking immature that i love and relate to. "I'd like that" i can't get into. Melody sounds like its the first song he ever wrote. Amateur or something. 'Fruit Nut" i think is terrible and tries to ruin the record but it cannot. Some of the other stuff is just too great. "Greenman is really powerful but definitely too long (with the "lay your head " shit.) Easter Theater, Last balloon, Can't Own Her, Knights in shining Karma? Incredible of course. Why the fuck can't these guys come up with just one record with all good songs on it? They always have to throw in four or so crappy ones. Skylarking almost had all good ones on it. Super Super Girl tried to ruin things but didn't. That song still has the Skylarking vibe at least. Oh well, I probably sounded like a dickhead writing this but hey....XTC makes me excited. They've been my favorute band for years.

    mark evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    on first listen I was appalled by this however I now find myself enjoying it. As you say Easter Theatre is magnificent and several other songs are top notch. However Colin's songs are a real letdown and I find both of them unlistenable. Also some of Andy's lyrics make me want to cringe i.e. 'I'm not so sure that Joey wed a virgin Mary' yeah right! anyway on the whole a good comeback that deserves a strong 7/10

    gustav gustavsv@stud.ntnu.no
    One of the ten best albums of all time! Easter Theatre is maybe one of the ten best songs ever! The same goes for I Can't Own her!

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    Total agreement!Although overall it's a tad inconsistent and samey, 'Easter Theatre', 'I Can't Own Her' and 'River of Orchids' are just wondrous, modern musical classics.The sort of songs that in a better, parallel universe somewhere, would be massive!8/10

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    As the years have gone by I've come to see this as the band's best effort except for the Dukes releases. Yes the sound of the album is a bit uniform but I really think Andy P's songwriting reaches it's peak here. Truly a great band. Keep up the good work Adrian. Sorry for all the garbage I've written over the years!

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    WASP STAR 8 ( 2000 )
    Playground / Stupidly Happy / In Another Life / My Brown Guitar / Boarded Up / I'm The Man Who Murdered Love / We're All Light / Standing In For Joe / Wounded Horse / You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful / Church Of Women / The Wheel And The Maypole

    'Playground' which opens this Dave Gregory free XTC album is slightly disapointing. Andy plays all the guitar here, background vocals are provided by Andys daughter Holly. Its by no means a bad song - the guitar riff is addictive if annoying with repetition. The lead vocals don't sound as smooth or accomplished as much of the vocal work on the 'Apple Venus' record however and the whole song ends up falling the wrong side of good to nestle uncomfortably in the category marked average. Not something you can call 'Stupidly Happy' though! This repeats the trick of having a single, naggingly addictive guitar riff running through the entire song. This time though additional guitars and riffs are gradually layered over the top as the song progresses. Such a happy grin inducing silly song! Colin comes back to life on this record after his average ( for him ) contributions to 'Apple Venus'. 'In Another Life' is a tale of domesticity. It's a classic Colin lyric and the tune isn't bad either! The lyrics really are wonderful though. I'm not sure if I'm legally allowed to quote them here, so you'll just have to buy the album to find out, won't you? His other songs are good too. 'Boarded Up' features pretty much just a guitar and 'walking boots' effect, 'Standing In For Joe' sounds a little old fashioned but it's still poppy and a good song. Colin's three songs here reaffirm his importance to XTC. It just wouldn't be XTC without him.

    'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love' has great 'YEAH!' parts after the chorus. So, that's alright! 'My Brown Guitar' is slightly plodding in terms of pace but just about holds your attention through its shifting sections. 'We're All Light' is simple and a piece of Andy Partridge wonder. Another simple melody, another happy song guaranteed to make you smile. This album doesn't quite hold together towards the end, sadly. 'Wounded Horse' is horrible - stretched, strained, slow and blues influenced but lacking the simple charm of Colins 'Boarded Up'. 'You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful' is at once both good and bad. The slightly lesser material on this record is perhaps a consequence of filling out two regular length cd albums rather than an extended single CD album. 'Church Of Women' is brilliant though with a great vocal performance and sensual way with words. The closing 'Wheel And The Maypole' is the most ambitious song here, being two halves of songs chopped together to form a new whole. The first half is straightforward pop, the second a giddy celebration of being alive. It's a fine way to close an album in anyones book. Another strong XTC album overall. The way its worked out with the two seperate 'Apple Venus' records may mean we've lost out on what could have been a true XTC masterpiece of epic proportions. But, we shouldn't dwell on what could have been. I, for one, am glad to have two new XTC records after such a long absence!

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    On the whole a rather Disappointing album. With the exception of 'Stupidly Happy' and 'I'm The Man who Murdered Love' there really isn't much quality here. I actually think 'Playground' is one of the better tracks along with 'The Wheel and the Maypole'. However I'm still not entirely satisfied with either of these songs. There is something slightly irritating about 'Playground' while the closing track is overlong and the second half of it is much inferior. Again Colin's songs aren't up to much and it appears that his best days are long gone. Though in saying that I must apologise for being a bit harsh on 'Frivolous Tonight' in the previous review as I now realise that it's not actually that bad. Mind you It's not that great either. Sorry Colin!

    Chris chrisfret2004@yahoo.co.uk
    I just love this!I know it's probably not one of their most consistent efforts, but still!There are SO many great songs!'Stupidly Happy' of course. And also the last few songs are especially excellent!To me it's just sunshine on a disc!9.5/10

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    Disc One Science Friction / Spinning Top / Traffic Light Rock / Radios In Motion / Let's Have Fun / Fireball XL5/Fireball Dub / Heatwave Mark 2 Deluxe / This Is Pop / Are You Receiving Me / Things Fall To Bits / Us Being Us / Life Begins At The Hop / Life Begins At The Hop / Making Plans For Nigel / Ten Feet Tall / Sleepyheads

    Back to the very beginning with a demo presented to CBS records to open. The vocals are less 'eccentric' than the released version! The live tracks on this disc include 'Spinning Top', 'Traffic Light Rock' and a demo of 'Making Plans For Nigel' recorded in Swindon town hall! 'Traffic Light Rock' is particularly frantic and entertaining, XTC capturing the demented nature of 'White Music' very well live in person. 'Radios In Motion' is your regular studio 'White Music' version, but its a fantastic song, so I don't mind hearing it again :) Six out-takes on this disc. The 'White Music' out-takes were out-takes for possibly a very good reason! They still possess a certain dumb charm however even with very silly lyrics and simplistic, if cartoon outer space, music. 'This Is Pop' is the sparkling Mutt Lange produced version. It swings and rocks a whole lot more than the 'White Music' version and is far more entertaining. An alternate version of 'Are You Receiving Me' is rawer and less polished than the single version, the extracts and early recordings of 'Life Begins At The Hop' fascinating historically rather than essential listening of themselves. The real revelation of this disc are two Barry Andrews songs rejected at the time in favour of Colin and Andy songs. The two Barry Andrews songs that were included on 'Go 2' are actually a whole lot worse than these! 'Things Fall To Bits' has fine, spooky noises and a strong chorus. 'Us Being Them' is speedy in best XTC style even if Barry doesn't quite keep up with his own flow of words. The music is damn good though. Very entertaining!

    Disc Two Meccanik Dancing / Atom Medley / Life Begins At The Hop / Real By Reel / When You're Near Me / Helicopter / Towers Of London / Generals And Majors / No Language In Our Lungs / Sgt Rock / Paper And Iron / Crowded Room / Snowman / Ball And Chain

    Whoa! A storming, electrifying live version of 'Meccanik Dancing' opens this, recorded in Sydney Australia with Dave Gregory taking Barry Andrews parts on the keys. A medley of 'Into The Atom Age/Hang On To The Night and Neon Shuffle' follows taken from the same concert. Very loud, very noisy indeed. Very good fun! The version of 'Life Begins At The Hop' here is an unused American single re-recording. For some reason its been given a funky disco beat and the guitars obliterated altogether. Very funny though for some reason! The disco bass groove is kinda nice as well. It doesn't compare to the original of course, this is just silly! A couple more unused single recordings follow, none of which improve upon the album versions but are interesting to hear all the same. The version of 'Helicopter' comes closest to improving on its album version, slightly less demented musically but with a better vocal performance over the 'Drums And Wires' version. A bunch of live songs appearing towards the end of this disc are absolute highlights. Well recorded, excellent sound quality. 'Paper And Iron' is particularly storming, intense and thrilling. Fantastic listened to loud.

    Disc Three Punch And Judy / Fly On The Wall / Yacht Dance / Jason And The Argonauts / Love On A Farmboys Wages / Wonderland / Ladybird / All You Pretty Girls / Wake Up / Everyday Story Of Smalltown / Grass / Let's Make A Den / The Meeting Place / Dear God

    Now, this is the one for me. Disc three. Coincidently, the same disc number I like the most on The Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations' box set! How appropriate is that?! 'Punch And Judy' is different to the version that appeared as a b-side to an 'English Settlement' era single. A completely different version that has groovey bass parts and is actually a wonderful song. Certainly the best out-take to date on this box although 'Sleepyheads' a 'Drums And Wires' out-take on Disc One is also pretty fine. 'Fly On The Wall' is the 'English Settlement' version but sounds a lot more entertaining here, for some reason. A wonderful performance of 'Yacht Dance' recorded live for 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' is perfection itself, very beautiful indeed. My favourite from 'English Settlement' follows and the flow of stupendously great songs on this disc becomes intoxicating. Demos of both 'Wonderland' and 'Love On A Farmboys Wages' only reinforce what great songs they were in the first place. Both Colin and Andy had mini home studio recorders installed in their houses at this time. Andys demos generally have everything worked out already albeit wrapped in a lo-fi recording. Colins demos are funny as hell! Take a listen to the 'Grass' demo in particular to hear a very creepy vocal performance that scares the life out of me! All great songs though and to be fair to Colins demo of 'Grass', the music is wonderful, so special to be present at the birth of this song. A demo of 'Lets Make A Den' makes me wonder why the hell it never made the final running order of 'Skylarking'. It's a wonderful song with Paul McCartney bass and Beach Boys harmonies.

    Disc Four Braniacs Daughter / Vanishing Girl / Terrorism / Find The Fox / Season Cycle / The Troubles / Mayor Of Simpleton / King For A Day / Chalkhills And Children / The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead / Ominibus / The Disapointed / Bungalow / Didn't Hurt A Bit / Books Are Burning

    A couple of Dukes Of Stratosphear highlights open Disc Four, slightly out of chronological order but I guess you had to squeeze these in somewhere. Both songs are as wonderful as ever, in any case. More 'Skylarking' out-takes. 'Terrorism' is astonishing given what's been happening in the world recently. Uncanny in its lyrical matter and musically very hard hitting, a biting guitar track that perhaps might not have fitted into 'Skylarking' too well but would have made a great addition to 'Oranges And Lemons'. 'Find The Fox' and 'The Troubles' are both good songs too. It begs the question, how many songs did they have for 'Skylarking' at all? They could have made two Skylarkings! Now, there is a frightening thought. Proof of XTCs genuis these songs especially. The remaining songs are another mixture of demo versions and XTC favourites such as 'Bungalow' taken straight from its 'Nonsuch' version. This and 'Chalkhills And Children' represent the very peak of XTC as writers so its only appropriate the studio versions have been used for these. 'Bungalow' still breaks my heart. The live version of 'Books Are Burning' is good and 'Didn't Hurt A Bit' an impossibly decent and jaunty 'Nonsuch' out-take and absolutely a highlight of this box.

    The first two discs here may be of more historical interest than anything else, much in the manner of The Beatles 'Anthology' releases. The live tracks are storming though and rendered in very hi-fidelity recordings. Discs three and four mix in regular studio versions of classic songs with a selection of fantastic out-takes and demos of songs that never were. Such good songs though. These two discs can just be listened to, over and over - as if regular albums in themselves almost. The book that comes with the box is often illuminating too with funny little comments from Colin and Andy with regards to both the songs and performances contained therein. All in all, although not quite a perfect box set, well worth a look for fans and a fittingly lavish tribute to one of Englands most loved groups.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Normally I refuse to buy any box sets but when I saw this going for a fiver my zealousness got the better of me. To be honest though I wasn't terribly impressed. The live tracks are quite fun but the rest really didn't appeal to me. As Adrian rightly says none of the unused singles improve upon the album tracks, so there is really little reason to buy this unless you are fascinated by demos. For me the highlight is at the end of the live performance of Spinning Top when someone in the Liverpool crowd yells out 'dat's shit dat'. I think he had a fair point! Anyway I've noticed that my comments on the other XTC albums are somewhat contradictory! So I will just have my final word and say that my favourite XTC albums (in no particular order) are Apple Venus, Skylarking, Black Sea, English Settlement and The Big Express. The latter has really grown on me in the last few months. Get past the 80's production and drum machine and you will find some of Andy's best songs. Sorry to ram! ble on so much!

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    this page last updated 08/02/14

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